Page Updated: June 23, 2019

The Dangers of Asbestos in Older Homes

Asbestos is a naturally-occurring fibrous silicate set of minerals found in every part of the world. For decades, it was used during the construction of residential homes because of its durability, ability to resist fire and high temperatures, and excellent insulation properties.

However, these positive traits are outweighed by the health hazards associated with asbestos exposure, including the risk of life-threatening diseases such as malignant mesothelioma and asbestosis. Although homes built after the mid 1980s likely do not contain asbestos, millions of homes built prior are filled with asbestos in attics, older appliances, walls, ceiling, roofing, and more.

If you or a loved have mesothelioma, asbestosis, or asbestos-related cancer, you may be eligible for a large amount of compensation. Currently, there is over $30 billion in trusts set up for those who have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness. Fill out our form to receive our free Financial Compensation Packet. Our packet is loaded with information on leading mesothelioma attorneys in your area, how to file a claim for asbestos trust funds, how to get paid in 90 days, and more. 

History of Older Homes and Asbestos Use

Since asbestos is abundant, cheap, and has properties that made it apparently an ideal additive to construction materials, it was widely used by many industries for more than a century. Though both its positive and negative traits were known as far back as the times of the ancient Romans, asbestos was used massively in the U.S. from the mid-19th Century until, as previously mentioned, the early 1980s.

Home builders were among the biggest users of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials (ACMs). Millions of houses, apartment buildings, and other dwellings built between 1940 and the early 1980s were built with many components derived from the fibrous yet dangers set of minerals.

Asbestos use by the construction industry was curtailed sharply in the late 1970s after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released findings that exposure to asbestos posed severe health risks. Since then, products such as roofing panels, cement, and insulation have been made with alternatives to asbestos.

However, industries were given a “phase out” period, meaning they had a certain amount of years to stop using asbestos. Although the EPA placed regulations on asbestos use in the late 70s, many homes were still built with asbestos over the next few years before companies completely stopped using it.

Many Americans still live in older houses that were built before the EPA published its reports about the dangers of asbestos. If you live in a house or apartment built between 1940s and 1980s, it’s important know what to do if asbestos is present in your home.

Exposure Points of Asbestos in Older Homes

Asbestos is a dangerous material, especially if it is deteriorating or is disturbed by human activity such as repair work or renovation. Do not carry out any home improvement project that involves drilling, sawing, or tearing down any part of the original structure without a professional inspection to see if asbestos is present.

Since asbestos is not easy to identify without proper training in inspection and eradication methods, you should hire a professional inspector. Asbestos inspectors have the training and experience to identify products and materials which contain asbestos.

It is best to treat your home as if it contains asbestos until a state-certified asbestos professional can inspect the residence thoroughly. In the meantime, it’s crucial to understand where asbestos exposure points may be in older homes.

  • Attic insulation (typically vermiculite insulation)
  • Corrugated cement roofing
  • Vinyl floor tiling
  • Window glazing and caulking
  • Plasters and siding materials
  • Old appliances such as furnaces and air conditioners
  • Heating duct insulation
  • Ceiling tile
  • Hot water and steam pipes
  • Flue pipes
  • Cement, paper, and millboard sheets
  • Textured paint
  • Architectural cement pipe columns
  • Artificial brick cladding
  • Cement tile underlay
  • Bathroom linings
  • Eave linings
  • Old electrical wiring insulation

What to Do if Your Home Contains Asbestos

As mentioned earlier, if you suspect your home may contain asbestos, you’ll need to contact a qualified asbestos professional’s assistance. Asbestos fibers are impossible to detect with the human eye and and easily inhaled. In the meantime:

  • Don’t work around, repair, or renovate any areas that may contain asbestos.
  • If you have children, make sure they don’t play or roughhouse near any areas that may contain asbestos.
  • Don’t load any boxes, clean up, or walk around in the attic.
  • Don’t sweep up or vacuum around areas that may contain asbestos.
  • Don’t saw, sand, or scrape around areas that may contain asbestos, and never drill holes in the walls for any reason.

The Dangers of Asbestos When Disturbed

If asbestos is crushed, drilled, excavated or otherwise disturbed, even by natural erosion, the fibers become airborne. When released into the air, especially in enclosed spaces where it can concentrate, the fibrous dust can enter the body either by inhalation or swallowing.

Once inside the system, these microscopic fibers can become firmly lodged inside the lining of the chest, heart, or abdomen.

Once ingested, it’s impossible for the body to expel all of the fibers. Over time, asbestos fibers cause lesions in several tissues in the system. The lesions fester and can eventually mutate into cancers of the lung or the mesothelium.

By the time asbestos fibers start damaging the body, many years may have already passed by. The dormancy period of asbestos-related diseases can last for decades. However, the first signs of problems include:

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Pain when inhaling
  • Fluid effusion
  • Nausea
  • Reduction in chest expansion
  • Dry coughs that may be accompanied with wheezing
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fever

More Information

Remember, if you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma or asbestos-related cancer, you may qualify for significant compensation. Remember to fill out our form to get your free Financial Compensation Packet, with information on asbestos and mesothelioma lawyers in your area. If you need additional assistance, contact us toll-free at 800-793-4540.