Building and other products may contain asbestos
- Asbestos is a dangerous substance that should be avoided.
- Asbestos is a natural mineral widely used in building construction materials and products. Here is a partial list of potential asbestos-containing products.
- Generally, you cannot tell if a material contains asbestos simply by looking at it. If in doubt, treat the material as if it contains asbestos and leave it alone.
- Left undisturbed and in good condition, these products can perform as intended.
- Problems arise when they deteriorate, fall apart, or are disturbed during demolition or renovation work. When this happens, microscopic fibers become airborne, are easily inhaled, and settle deep into the lungs.
- The Washington state legislature passed a law requiring the labeling of new products sold in our state beginning January 1, 2014.
Planning a renovation or demolition project?
If you are a homeowner, landlord, contractor, property manager, etc., involved directly or indirectly in altering a structure in any way, regardless of its age, your project is subject to asbestos regulations. The first step is to understand what category your project falls under (demolition or renovation) and then whether it is an owner-occupied, single family residence or not.
Asbestos is dangerous
When asbestos fibers are inhaled, most fibers are expelled, but some can become lodged in the lungs and remain there throughout life. Fibers can accumulate and cause scarring and inflammation and lead to serious conditions including lung cancer and mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that is occurs in the thin lining of the lung, chest and abdomen. Asbestos exposure can also cause asbestosis, a serious progressive, long-term, non-cancer fibrotic disease of the lungs.
Various factors determine how exposure to asbestos affects an individual's risk of developing an asbestos-related illness or disease, including:
- Exposure concentration - what was the concentration of asbestos fibers?
- Exposure duration - how long did the exposure last?
- Exposure frequency - how often during that time period was the person exposed?
- Size, shape and chemical makeup of the asbestos fibers
- Individual risk factors, such as a person's history of smoking, occupational history, other pre-existing lung diseases, etc.
To protect public health from exposure to asbestos, activities such as demolition and renovation of buildings, homes and other structures must be done in accordance with asbestos regulations.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has additional health related information about asbestos exposure.
EPA has a comprehensive website on asbestos: asbestos website.