Asbestos in the Home

We’ve all heard a lot about asbestos in the news lately. Many homes built before 1980 contain asbestos but newer houses may also contain asbestos. Asbestos was incorporated in the manufacturing process of floor tiles, ceiling tiles, shingles and flashing, siding, insulation, pipes, pipe cement and joint compound used on seams between pieces of sheetrock.


The primary danger in asbestos comes when it ages and deteriorates. The deterioration process creates asbestos fibers that can become airborne and inhaled into the lungs. This state is as known as Friable asbestos and is associated with asbestos that is easily crumbled or can be reduced to a powder. Non-friable asbestos is more tightly bound with another material and its fibers cannot easily be made airborne unless they are disturbed.


The first signs of asbestos exposure often manifest as respiratory issues because asbestos primarily causes lung diseases. An important aspect to remember about symptoms related to asbestos exposure is that there are no signs of asbestos exposure that a person can identify before a disease develops. “The first signs of asbestos exposure are the symptoms of related diseases.” Also know asbestos is not limited to causing just lung diseases. It can cause diseases in other parts of the body as well.


If you think you’ve been exposed to asbestos and/or are experiencing respiratory issues consult with your health care provider as soon as possible. For more information on Asbestos related symptoms, diseases, risks and treatments please visit this link on asbestos exposure.


Identification of asbestos in the home is difficult at best. It may be out of sight or reach, applied at the joints in both plumbing lines and heating ducts, buried in walls or ceilings, or under one of more layers of insulation in the attic. Therefore it is essential a sufficient, representative number of samples be collected by certified asbestos professionals and tested by certified laboratories.


One of the most pervasive instances of asbestos in the home comes in the form of vermiculite insulation. It is important to note: Not all vermiculite insulation contains asbestos! However, it is estimated one single company (W.R. Grace) produced 80% of the entire world’s supply of vermiculite from 1963 – 1990.


Unfortunately, when harvesting the vermiculite ore, along with it they also harvested a nasty little silicate known as Tremolite whose fibers produce one of the six known types of asbestos.


The vermiculate insulation manufactured by the W.R Grace company was called Zonolite and was used in approximately 35 million homes. Again, just because you have Zonolite brand of verimiculite insulation does not mean it contains asbestos.


Regardless of what type of insulation a home has, identifying it and testing it can be difficult because when installed in walls, it typically lies between the exterior wall and the interior drywall or paneling. As for ceiling and attic insulation, they can often be almost as difficult to get at and you can imagine the scope of the cleanup if there are several layers in insulation as we often find in older homes.


This is where proper testing will aid determining whether or not a home is safe to live in, or whether the owner or buyer will need to spend thousands in removal/remediation procedures. It is highly advised to hire the proper professionals to do this for you. Don’t play guessing games and engage in cost saving tactics when your health is at stake.


If, after testing it is determined you do have Zonolite brand insulation, you may want to consider contacting the ZAI Trust. The ZAI (Zonolite Attic Insulation) Trust was created to help educate the public about the possible health effects of asbestos-containing vermiculite and to provide partial reimbursement for ZAI removal to qualified claimants. It was established in 2014 and is expected to operate for the next 20 years.