Asbestos has been used as a building material for hundreds of years. The substance was known to ancient Egyptians and ancient Romans for its incredible insulating properties. In fact, ancient Roman patricians used to make gloves out of asbestos and use it to pick up hot coals. It was a party trick of sorts that exposed how well asbestos could insulate. In the 1920s, it became fairly clear that asbestos was a carcinogen. It was found to cause cancer and other diseases of the respiratory system. However, the construction lobby is incredibly powerful and managed to keep asbestos from being banned until the 1970s in most places. Therefore, if you have a building that was built before Margaret Thatcher took office, you could have asbestos.
Do You Have Asbestos?
The first thing you need to do is figure out if you have asbestos. There is only one way to safely figure that out; you need to call a professional to inspect your house or business for signs of asbestos. You shouldn’t do this yourself. The experts at a place like Proactive Asbestos Control LTD will tell you that asbestos is dangerous when you start tampering with it. Asbestos is a carcinogen but only when it is inhaled. It is a frangible substance, meaning it can be separated into fibres. When it is separated into fibres, you can breathe it in, and that’s when it becomes a danger. Asbestos can be separated into fibres from even the slightest disturbance, and those fibres are oftentimes light enough to float in the air. To keep that from happening, you need to hire professionals who will be able to inspect it without disturbing it.
If they find that you have asbestos, they might not even have to remove the asbestos. Depending on where it is and why it’s there, they might be able to encapsulate it.
As stated earlier, asbestos is most dangerous when it’s disturbed and separated into breathable fibres. Therefore, if you can avoid disturbing it, it is relatively harmless, which means the location of the asbestos is key. If you have asbestos in your attic or some part of the basement that doesn’t get much use, encapsulation is likely the best option. Encapsulation involves sealing up the asbestos so that it is protected from disturbance. The most common ways to encapsulate asbestos are to paint over it or to seal it off. The asbestos professionals will likely use a very thick and flexible type of paint that will create a flexible barrier over the asbestos. With the barrier in place, the asbestos will not separate into fibres.
Alternately, they might choose to seal it off with some kind of physical barrier like a wall. For example, if you attach new sheets of drywall over the asbestos, it will not be disturbed in the future. Encapsulation is often more affordable and safer than actually removing it, but it’s not right for all situations.