Is Your Home Harboring Toxins? What to Know Before “Doing It Yourself”

Asbestos in the home is not as uncommon as one might think.

Summer is a popular time of year to tackle all those projects around the house that you’ve been putting off since winter. The do-it-yourself (or DIY) method of performing home renovations has grown immensely in popularity during the last five years. In fact, according to a study done by Mainstreet.com, over 70 % of all house projects are completed without the help of a professional.

However, DIY renovations have many obstacles. One in particular is the difficulty of finding dangerous toxins, such as asbestos, in the home. 


What is Asbestos?

Asbestos in the home is not as uncommon as one might think. This natural mineral was used in a variety of materials throughout the construction of almost any home predating 1980. The use of asbestos peaked from 1920 to the 1970s due to its natural ability to absorb sound and inability to falter when placed under stress from high temperatures or chemical aggravation. Before scientists and doctors made it public knowledge that asbestos could be highly dangerous to human health, it was even used in a number of consumer products like hair dryers, gloves, potting soil, and ironing boards. 

There are six types of asbestos. While all prove to be toxic and have carcinogenic properties, certain types have proven to be more dangerous than others. Chrysotile is the most common type of asbestos and has been mined the most for its association with building materials and construction. Estimates shows nearly 95 percent of asbestos that remains in buildings and houses throughout the United States and Canada is chrysotile. Chrysotile was also commonly used aboard navy ships during both World War II and the Korean War.


Where is Asbestos in My Home?

High traffic areas of the home can unfortunately be housing asbestos. It’s extremely important that if you plan on doing any work on your home, you take proper precautions before beginning the task. Some of the more common areas to be mindful of are window light fixtures, caulking, glaze, putties, insulation, ceiling, flooring, and linoleum tiles, paint, and plaster. Even certain consumer products from the 1980s like hair dryers and crock pots used asbestos as a binding agent.

Unfinished basements are well known for being constructed with cement walls and floors that could contain asbestos. Old appliances like water heaters, wood and coal burning stoves, furnaces, HVAC ducts, or ventilation insulation systems can also contain asbestos.

Often neglected, it is not uncommon to find asbestos in the external areas of your home. Asbestos-containing materials have been proven to be found in certain products like siding, shingles, roofing tiles, and fiberboards near the foundation of a home. 


The Dangers of Asbestos

If you or someone working on your house thinks they’ve discovered asbestos in the home, stop and don’t touch it. Although the risks associated with asbestos are significantly lower when it is undisturbed, there is no safe level of exposure to this dangerous toxin. Before proceeding, call an asbestos abatement professional and act with caution until the property has been inspected properly.

When asbestos is disturbed, it releases microscopic fibers in the air. These fibers can cling to clothing, carpets, furniture, and even skin. Breathing in these fibers can lead to the development of malignant lung tumors later in life.

Completing a home renovation yourself has a series of advantages. Rather than hiring a professional, it is an affordable and budget friendly alternative. DIY renovations give you freedom and ability to set your schedule and allow you to have full autonomy to change your mind whenever you see necessary. Discovering a toxicant like asbestos can push back your timeline and require you to reanalyze and alter your budget. But with a substance like asbestos, it’s crucial to pause and take stock of the situation.

If you’re planning on buying a fixer-upper or think a DIY home renovation project is the right option for you, it’s a good suggestion to create a pre-project checklist to eliminate any bumps that could arise. Prior to starting your renovation timeline, complete a “toxin inspection” to ensure you and your family’s health and safety. Finding out if your home has issues like asbestos, lead paint, or even black mold could save you time, a huge budget change, and secure your health for years to come. 

—Guest post by Bridget Rooney, Communications Specialist at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.

One Response to “Is Your Home Harboring Toxins? What to Know Before “Doing It Yourself””

  1. Asbestos when torn have fibers, when the fibers are exposed and inhaled it is very dangerous and it cause cancer! I wont recommend DIY on working with old asbestos its just dangerous, so better hire a professional to do it!

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