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Asbestos: A Hidden Killer in Many Homes

Updated on May 22, 2014
grand old lady profile image

Mona writes a column for Enrich Magazine which is distributed in five countries. She is interested in learning as she writes.

My Colunm, "Home Safet First," dealt with the topic, asbestos. It was featured in two parts, on the April and May issues of Enrich Magazine.
My Colunm, "Home Safet First," dealt with the topic, asbestos. It was featured in two parts, on the April and May issues of Enrich Magazine. | Source

You have purchased the home of your dreams, where you plan to park the first car, buy your first kitchen appliances and furniture, raise children and invest in pets. But how sure are you that your home is safe? Has your home been checked for asbestos?

Asbestos is a fiber that emanates from minerals and rocks. It was plentifully used in some countries up to the 1980s. However, when long term exposure to asbestos was linked to lung cancer, many homes and buildings in Europe and in the US were checked by an expert for the presence of the fiber. The removal of asbestos requires a special procedure that can only be done by an expert.

Asbestos VAT/Mastic Removal.mp4

My column is mentioned in the April 2914 issue of the Editor's Note. Unfortunately, my name is misspelled as always) with an "s" instead of a "z".
My column is mentioned in the April 2914 issue of the Editor's Note. Unfortunately, my name is misspelled as always) with an "s" instead of a "z". | Source

The two types of cancer linked to long term asbestos exposure are 1) Mesothelioma, which affects the abdominal cavity and chest lining, and 2) asbestosis, or scarring of the lungs. To determine the presence of this mineral in your home, an expert must be consulted. If asbestos is present and exposed, special procedures must be followed in its treatment or removal.

My bio is featured in the writers' page. Happily, my name is spelled correctly this time.
My bio is featured in the writers' page. Happily, my name is spelled correctly this time. | Source

Where asbestos is used

Asbestos may be present in some types of cement roof shingles, cement pipes, some varieties of insulation (especially in old, 1970 homes), some categories of stove top pads (especially older ones), wall coverings, acoustic plaster, some patching alloys, ceiling tiles, textured paints, coatings, air-conditioning duct insulation and some types of vinyl flooring, among others.


Part I of my column in the April issue of Enrich Magazine
Part I of my column in the April issue of Enrich Magazine | Source

If the asbestos is safely contained and covered, it is harmless. However, if it is exposed, there is the danger of inhalation. Exposure is particularly likely if the structure is old and damaged.

Old buildings like schools and churches are examples of the possible danger of long term exposure to asbestos. Because of this, the market for products that contain asbestos has gone down in the US and in Europe.

My byline (spelled correctly) on part I of my column, featured in April issue
My byline (spelled correctly) on part I of my column, featured in April issue | Source

Scoping the Asian market

On October 25, 2013, a meeting was held in Makati city, the Philippine’s financial district, attended by major players from the asbestos industry. The meeting was headed by the Association of Chrysotile Industry of the Philippines (ACIP), according to a statement from Building and Wood Workers International in their website, Bwint.org.

The purpose of the meeting was to promote Chrysotile asbestos as safe for use in construction. In attendance were “key government officials, academics, journalists, politicians and construction industry contractors,” according to Bwint.org.

May 2014 Enrich issue has part 2 of my column, "Home Safety First" on asbestos.
May 2014 Enrich issue has part 2 of my column, "Home Safety First" on asbestos. | Source

The meeting was censured by BWI and the Associated Labor Unions (ALU). Gerard Seno, executive vice president of ALU said, “After sustaining a recent series of heavy economic, legal and political losses in Europe, North and South America, this asbestos industry assembly in Manila is a signal that the asbestos sales have shifted and are going to expand their business operations in the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and other developing countries in the region.”

My column is mentioned again in the May, 2014 issue of Enrich Mag.
My column is mentioned again in the May, 2014 issue of Enrich Mag. | Source

Chrysotile asbestos claims to be less dangerous

According to its website, Chrysotile is less dangerous compared to its predecessor, amphibole, which was used in the 70s. It can be used as part of insulation, flooring and appliances. The Chrysotile site notes that studies indicate that asbestos is not harmful if it is covered by solid matter that keeps it from being released in the air.

Date of May, 2014 issue of Enrich Mag
Date of May, 2014 issue of Enrich Mag | Source

According to a Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Order No. 02 released in the year 2000, there are two groups of asbestos. The serpentine group includes chrysolite, which is white asbestos. The amphibole group includes actinolite, crocidolite (blue asbestos) and tremolite, among others. The DENR Order does not say that one group is less dangerous than the other.

Part 2 of my column, "Home Safety First" on asbestos.
Part 2 of my column, "Home Safety First" on asbestos. | Source

Philippine laws regarding asbestos

The DENR Order No. 2 formed the Chemical Control Order for Asbestos. The order included a list of materials where asbestos is permissible provided it is securely covered. These include roof felts (which lie below the roof shingles), asbestos cement roofing, asbestos cement flat sheets, high temperature textiles (eg. blankets, ceramic ropes), and other high density products.

A 2003 article in the Philippine Star further clarified that the Philippine government, through the DENR, will control and regulate the import, manufacture, storage, transportation and disposal of products using asbestos and asbestos waste disposal.

My byline, part 2 of my column, "Home Safety First" about asbestos
My byline, part 2 of my column, "Home Safety First" about asbestos | Source

Adios, Dream House?

This may all sound very good. However, what happens when your dream house experiences natural long term deterioration? If the paint cracks and falls, will asbestos be pulled down with it?

Over time, the foundation of your home may move, causing cracks on your marble, cement, hardwood or vinyl floor. Cracks will appear on your walls. The ceiling may leak and you may have plumbing problems.

If you are thinking in the long term, would you consider asbestos a worthy risk? Perhaps that would be fine with you, but there is also the risk of secondhand exposure.

Asbestos on clothing, shoes, or even your body can be inhaled by any outsider you come into contact with. Lung cancer caused by asbestos has a long latency period. It may manifest from 10 to 30 years after long term exposure.

Enrich Magazine is distributed in five countries.
Enrich Magazine is distributed in five countries. | Source

What you can do

Homes that were built in the 1970s are likely to have asbestos. If that sounds like your home, make sure that the asbestos is locked in and unexposed. Look for signs of damage like cracks, water damage, or damage caused by hitting or mishandling the house. Incidents like these may result in the release of asbestos.

Consult a professional if your home has asbestos. He can use a sealant or any stable material to close the asbestos in. If you are planning to build your own home, you can choose all your materials to ensure that your house is asbestos free.

Is your home safe?

Do you know whether there is any asbestos in your home?

See results

If you plan to buy a home, ask the builder if asbestos was used, and on what parts of the house. If you decide to leave the asbestos where it is, maintain your house regularly. Fix any damage as soon as it occurs, don’t let it fester. Also, survey the condition of your house annually. You don’t want to reach a point where you have to remove your whole floor or a piece of your popcorn ceiling falls off.

If you would rather remove the asbestos and you have the budget to do it, hire a professional to do the job. A professional will seal off the house, wear an asbestos safe mask and cover his head, and dispose of his clothes afterwards.

Special water with a chemical will be used to keep the area consistently wet so that the asbestos stays put. Disposal will require the service of a hazardous waste facility.

It’s very expensive. You would probably be better off looking for a healthier dream house.

Asbestos in your home- Escondido home inspection

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    • grand old lady profile image
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      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you ologsinquito and thank you for your visit:).

    • ologsinquito profile image

      ologsinquito 3 years ago from USA

      Asbestos has been a huge problem in the United States with older homes. Nice article.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Hi Monis Mas, I'm sorry about your friend. Asbestos is still used in construction in Asia, that's why we really have to be careful about always maintaining our homes. As long as it's covered, it won't cause any harm. But if you plan to build your own home, it would be good to do it without asbestos. I'm glad to know that your house is asbestos free.

    • Monis Mas profile image

      Aga 3 years ago

      Asbestos is very scary. Good thing I don't have that problem. A friend of mine got very sick and died, because there was asbestos in her basement. Very sad story. I can't believe that they used to built homes with it!

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Hi BNaydyn, I'm glad you are having this checked, since your parents are there. While you're at it, you might also want to see if your parents' house has a circuit breaker, since a number of old homes don't have this and it can prevent or at least minimize the effect of fires caused by electricity. My neighbor's home didn't have a circuit breaker, and one day the couple went out, and while they were out there was a short circuit in her home and the house just burned down. They came home to the shell of an unlivable house. It was a very difficult time for them. Take care, and I hope that you and your parents will always be safe.

    • BNadyn profile image

      Bernadyn 3 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida

      The house my parents live in currently and that I grew up in was built in the 60's and now I can't remember if they had this checked. I'll be asking them now just to make sure. Lots of good information here and how to take care of the problem. I think it's easy to forget about when buying a home but something that should be raised considering the serious health risks.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you Nell Rose. I thought that the problem was pretty much resolved in the US, but I guess there are still parts where old buildings remain and are unchecked for asbestos. You're right, it's frightening to thing that your own home is not safe and can be slowly killing you and your family. Thank you for sharing this piece:).

      rebeccamealy, thank you for your kind words. If any place at all should be safe, it should be our own homes.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      It is great that you took the time to write a helpful, informative article like this one. Thanks so much. It really explains a grave problem.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      Great info, I remember when I lived in a small building that was used for when we were waiting for a house, long story, turns out that the roof was made of asbestos! luckily we were moved quite quickly but it was scary to think that it was there, and even today people have it in their tin roofs of sheds etc, so people really should get it sorted out, voted up and shared!

    • grand old lady profile image
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      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Joedolphin88, come to realize, asbestos is poison. What an astute way to describe it. Thank you for stopping by and reading:)

    • joedolphin88 profile image

      Joe 3 years ago from north miami FL

      Really explains how poison is everywhere and we have to be careful. great article

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      It's better to be a health freak, especially if you see your home as a long term investment, where your grandchildren will be going to visit you and where you'll celebrate the holidays every year. Good for you alexadry:)

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 3 years ago from USA

      Yes, luckily the inspector though told me that it was still in good shape and therefore it wasn't likely releasing anything harmful-- yet. We found out as well, that most homes in that town were made like that and people seemed to care less about it and weren't bothered, but I am a health-freak and can't live in a home like that without thinking about it.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you Faith Reaper. I hope your son and his family are safe in their home. They may want to ask the realtor to connect them to the renovator so that they can ask them whether they discovered asbestos and what was done about it. Or, they could contact an expert. Sometimes it's safer to just seal and cover the asbestos if it's present. If they consult an expert, then they can also ask what he advises.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      Important hub here in making awareness of the dangers of asbestos in our homes. My son and his family (three children) just moved into a home that was built back in the 1950s and now I am concerned about such. I hope that a home cannot be sold if it has asbestos, but I guess it is up to the owners to find out.

      Up and more and away

      Blessings for a lovely weekend

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      What a terrible situation that must have been for you. But health is wealth, and I'm glad you're not in that house anymore. You'd think in the US it's pretty much decimated, but it's not. We all have to be more careful.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 3 years ago from USA

      We bought a home a couple of years ago, and what a surprise when an inspector told us a year later that all the siding was made of asbestos! We disclosed it, sold it for a fraction of what we bought it for and moved.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Oh, I'm glad you had the problem fixed, DDE. It saved your lungs 20 years of healthy air:)

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Years ago we had asbestos in our home and have changed it over twenty years ago. A very interesting and helpful hub.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you Anita Saran:). I'm glad you built a new house and that it is reasonably safe. May you build wonderful memories with those you love in your new home.

    • Anita Saran profile image

      Anita Saran 3 years ago from Bangalore, India

      Very informative. I didn't know asbestos is present in so many things. Luckily I am living in a new home I just built about a year ago, so I know the only possibility of asbestos are the cement pipes on the side and rear of the building for kitchen and bathroom drainage. These are commonly used everywhere, so I don't know what can be done about them. I doubt there are alternatives. At least I haven't seen any. Voted up and Useful!

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      I totally agree with you, FlourishAnyway. If the US, Europe and South America have found alternatives, those are what we should be using too. Hope that the Asian governments will reject asbestos and those guys who well it will just diversify. Life.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      It's alarming that the industry is trying to ramp up marketing in certain countries. I'd probably opt for another building material and not believe the industry public relations people.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Hi Blonde Logic, thank you for visiting and for commenting on the article. I'm glad you don't have this problem in Brazil:). I understand that in South America they have handled the asbestos issue rather well and because of that, it is no longer considered a prospective market. It's us Asians who have to keep abreast of the danger of asbestos. The UK also had to do a lot of stuff to handle asbestos in schools and churches that were very old, and they did it rather well. I'm so glad you weren't affected. Hugs!

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 3 years ago from Brazil

      We saw this problem when I lived in the UK.

      Here in Brazil, I don't believe we have this in our home. There is no insulation of anything, because we don't need it.

      The dangers of exposing it are frightening. Thank you for reminding everyone what to be aware of.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you Lady Guinevere. I hope that more people can truly be safe in their own homes.

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 3 years ago from West By God

      Wow! Thanks for this article. I never realized just how much construction material is made with this poison. I will share this.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Yes, EricDierker, they are now targeting Asia because the market in the US and Europe is down. I guess it's all about business but it sure sucks.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Interesting to me that this is still an issue. Billions of dollars have been paid out on this and yet it still goes into homes??? That is just nuts.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you very much, travaj. It is a scary thing to imagine something so harmful in the walls of your home or your child's school. Thank you for saying that more people should be told about this.

    • travmaj profile image

      travmaj 3 years ago from australia

      Great hub bringing the dangers of asbestos in homes. It is indeed something to take seriously and be aware of. It's a similar story here in Australia with homes built many years ago. Thank you for bringing this to attention.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you MsDora:). I'm very glad that the US and Europe are doing things about asbestos, and this gives us a good warning in the Philippines and Asia. It's really just a matter of acting on the warnings, and I hope that our region will listen and learn.

      Thank you WriterJanis. It's true, most likely, more so in Asia. The construction firms will know but the buyers will not, and even if they ask you don't know what kind of answer you'll get.

    • WriterJanis profile image

      Janis 3 years ago from California

      It's good to get the word out there on this. It can really be bad for you and I bet lots of people don't know whether it's in their home or not.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Great job, Mona. I have heard some tragic stories about cancers and fatalities from asbestos. You gave very good information and instructions about what to do concerning asbestos. Thank you.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Yes, Billy Buc, much is being done about it in the US and Europe. But now they are seeking new markets in Asia, including the Philippines.I hope we can protect ourselves fro it. Thanks for visiting, and taking tie to read:)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Steps are being taken in the States to correct this problem, and it is indeed a huge problem. Nice job of raising awareness about this health risk.