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Was Asbestos Previously In My Home?

Asbestos-containing materials are unfortunately a common occurrence in homes built before the 1980s. However, many homes during that time period have undergone changes such as renovation. One may ask, how do I know if there were no asbestos materials previously removed? And were they removed property? In this blog we discuss the process of determining if asbestos was improperly removed in a property, asbestos dust sampling, and corrective steps that could be taken.

How Do I know If I Had Asbestos in My Home Previously 

The easiest way to discover if asbestos was previously in the property or properly removed is asking the previous homeowner. They may have valuable information such as inspection reports or clearance reports. If the homeowner is not aware of the history of asbestos, this can be challenging. If there has been renovation work in the property, it can be a clue if older building materials have been removed. 

Common Asbestos Materials

In a typical home setting, there are a series of common asbestos-containing materials that may be present. The first common set is asbestos-containing flooring. These materials can be 9” x 9” and 12” x 12” vinyl floor tiles and their associated glues. Other common flooring materials are sheeting flooring (linoleum) and its associated glue. In some cases, the grout and adhesive of ceramic tiles may also contain asbestos. Wall systems materials such as drywall, tape, and joint compound and plaster may sometimes contain asbestos also. Lastly other common materials are ceiling tiles, textured/popcorn ceiling, pipe/HVAC insulation, vermiculite, and other forms of attic insulation. If there are some remaining materials in the property, have no fear because they can be managed.

Asbestos Dust Testing/Methodology

Asbestos doesn’t remain airborne indefinitely, but will eventually settle into the dust. Once the asbestos settles and is not immediately kicked back into the air, an air sample for asbestos may not be able to capture the asbestos content in a space. Asbestos dust sampling can be used to evaluate the historical nature of asbestos in a given space. The process involves converting an asbestos air sample cassette into a microvacuum. The methodology uses Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) which uses an electron microscope to count fibers. Based on the lab results it can be indicated if background, elevated, or highly elevated asbestos fibers are present in the concern area. Asbestos fibers can be present in properties even if the properties never had asbestos, but would present at a background level. A highly elevated concentration of asbestos fibers in settled  dust can indicate if improper asbestos removal occurred. To learn more about this method, please refer to our previous blog.

Abatement Options

If there is an elevated or highly elevated concentration of asbestos in the dust, abatement activities will need to be performed. The abatement that occurs would typically involve wet wiping and HEPA vacuuming of the affected surfaces. HEPA air scrubbing may also be performed. 

Conclusion

If a property has been renovated and there are no records of previous testing or abatement, it is recommended that asbestos dust sampling be performed. Dust sampling may be able to detect if improper abatement has occurred in a property. If you’d like to schedule an asbestos inspection or asbestos dust testing, call our office at 312-920-9393!

Ian Cull

Ian Cull is a nationally recognized expert in the field of indoor air quality. He is the Chief Science Officer of Indoor Science, a company he started in 2004. He speaks around the world on air quality topics and is a training provider of the Indoor Air Quality Association. Mr. Cull is a Licensed Professional Engineer (PE) and Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH). His degree is in Environmental Engineering from the University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign. Mr. Cull has developed 50 air quality related courses for the IAQA University and is the author of the book, “Fundamentals of Mold Remediation”. In his words… “Besides being passionate about indoor air quality, I enjoy cycling, music, the Chicago Bulls, and having fun with my three kids.”