Why You Shouldn’t Choose a Home with Asbestos


Asbestos, a naturally occurring fibrous mineral, has been used for centuries in construction because of its resistance to fire and acid. As far back as ancient Greece and Rome, slaves developed lung maladies through asbestos exposure, but these problems were ignored due to the many practical uses of asbestos. Although by the 1920s asbestos became associated with health problems in the United States, builders continued to use it extensively. Not until the 1970s did some asbestos-containing materials become banned for use in construction. Homes built before the 1970s and even into the 1980s often have significant amounts of asbestos. Here are some reasons you should not buy a home with asbestos.

Where Asbestos is Found

Homes built before 1980 may have significant amounts of asbestos in spray-on insulation, insulation built into walls and ceilings, insulation around pipes and boilers, and fireproof sheets around wood-burning stoves. It may also be present in floor and ceiling tiles, roofing shingles and exterior siding. Textured paints, patching compounds, putties, caulks, cement, plaster and adhesives may all contain asbestos. Make sure you have your roof and insulation inspected by a trusted contractor like Art Construction.

Dangers of Asbestos

When asbestos is left alone, it is harmless, and health authorities advise that those who live in homes with asbestos should not disturb it. However, when asbestos-containing materials become friable, meaning easily crumbled, due to deterioration or damage from home repairs or renovations, they release sharp tiny fibers into the air. When these fibers are inhaled, they become trapped in the lungs and other internal organs, causing a number of asbestos-related diseases. Asbestosis, for instance, scars the lungs, making breathing difficult and bringing on coughing and shortness of breath. Lung cancer, the most common disease related to asbestos exposure, creates tumors in the lungs that hinder breathing and cause coughing, chest pains and anemia. Mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer affecting the mesothelium, the thin lining of tissue around internal organs, causes coughing, shortness of breath, pain in the chest or abdomen and other symptoms, and is almost always fatal.

Diagnosing Asbestos-Related Diseases

When asbestos-related diseases are suspected, doctors typically begin with a physical exam; perusal of medical history and past exposure to asbestos; and imaging tests such as x-rays and computerized tomography scans. Mesothelioma, however, can only be definitively detected by biopsy. This may be by fine needle aspiration, in which the doctor uses a needle to remove a small amount of fluid or tissue for testing, by thoracoscopy or laparoscopy, in which surgeons create a small incision in the chest or abdomen to insert a video camera and instruments for removing tissue samples, or thoracotomy or laparotomy, which are open surgery techniques to remove tissue samples from the chest or abdomen.

Treating Asbestos-Related Diseases

Treatment for asbestos-related diseases depends on how far they have progressed. Mesothelioma, for instance, can lie dormant for decades, so that by the time it is diagnosed, the disease is already far advanced. Surgery is used if the disease is detected at an early stage. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy often supplement surgery or are used independently in advanced cases to relieve symptoms and prolong life. Life expectancy after a diagnosis usually ranges from six to 18 months, depending on what stage the disease is in when it is diagnosed.

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, be sure to not only contact your doctor for treatment, but also a lawyer specializing in asbestos cases so you can get the compensation you deserve.

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