Asbestos is a general term for a group of six fibrous minerals that occur naturally in rocks and soil. Asbestos has been in use in the United States since the early 1900's, due to the fact that it is non-combustible, high in tensile strength, and a good insulator. The problem however, is that breathing asbestos fibers is known to cause several diseases, which may not appear until years later. In addition, the risk of asbestos-related lung cancer is many times higher among smokers than non-smokers.
It has been estimated that over the decades asbestos has been incorporated into several thousand building products. A series of EPA rules banning most asbestos-containing materials went into effect starting in the late 1980's. Older houses, such as those in Lakewood, are more likely to contain asbestos. Not every asbestos-containing material poses the same health risk however, and not everything that looks like asbestos is asbestos. If there is asbestos present, the important point is to properly manage it.
Asbestos-containing materials are known as friable or non-friable. In friable form, the asbestos materials can be easily crumbled, broken or crushed, releasing asbestos fibers into the air. Examples of this type of asbestos are some wrapping on a boiler or boiler pipes, wrapping on the inside or outside of forced-air furnace ductwork, or acoustical ceiling tiles. Friable products can easily release fibers into the air and is most harmful when the fibers are inhaled into the lungs. There are several methods to prevent fiber release. If possible, asbestos-containing materials can be encapsulated (applying a sealant to bind the fibers together) or enclosed (installing a rigid structure around the asbestos-containing material). The third method is complete removal.
In non-friable form, asbestos fibers are bound up in another hard material. Examples of this type of asbestos are some vinyl floor tiles and vinyl sheet flooring, asbestos-cement siding and roof shingles, or roofing tar. These products seal the asbestos fibers in the material. Unless these materials are damaged by methods such as sanding, cutting, tearing, or breaking, non-friable products pose little threat.
All of these methods should be performed by a properly licensed contractor. Be sure to check the experience of the contractor in handling asbestos-containing materials, and discuss the preventative measures that will be used. Before undertaking major renovations, consider having a properly licensed asbestos hazard evaluation specialist examine the house. The work will include a visual inspection and collection of small samples for lab analysis. Laboratory analysis is the only sure way to identify asbestos fibers. Contractors are listed in the Yellow Pages under “Asbestos.”
If you accidentally come into contact with asbestos-containing materials, remember:
Never use power tools.
Never dry sweep or use a vacuum cleaner. Always use wet clean-up methods. Dampen materials and seal in plastic bags for disposal.
Launder clothes separately.
For more information, contact the EPA Asbestos Hotline at 1-800-368-5888 or go to http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/ashome.html
The Lakewood Heritage Advisory Board was established to serve in an advisory capacity for the purpose of educating, informing and making recommendations to City officials, departments, boards and commissions, and the community on matters relating to historic preservation
The Lakewood Heritage Advisory Board may be contacted through the City of Lakewood Department of Planning and Development (216/529-6630). Information in this publication may be reprinted. Please credit the Lakewood Heritage Advisory Board, Lakewood, Ohio.