1. What is asbestos?
Asbestos is the name given to any one of six different, naturally occurring fibrous minerals: chrysotile, crocidolite, amosite, anthophyllite, tremolite, and actinolite. Of these, chrysotile and amosite asbestos are the two most commonly found in building materials.
Among it’s many properties, asbestos is heat and flame resistant. For this reason, it was used in a variety of construction and insulation materials and is often found in Portland area homes.
2. Is asbestos dangerous?
Generally speaking, asbestos is only harmful to your health if it becomes friable (can be powdered by hand) and is inhaled into the lungs. Asbestos, if left undisturbed, is generally harmless. Demolition and renovation projects, however, have the potential to disturb asbestos and allow it to be inhaled which has been known to cause serious health problems. That’s why it’s so important to know what you’re dealing with and to have your home tested for asbestos containing materials before beginning any demolition or renovation project.
3. Where is asbestos found in homes?
Asbestos is found in a wide variety of products and construction materials including:
- Ceilings: acoustical tiles, glue dots, and plaster
- Flooring: vinyl tiles (9” x 9” and 12” x 12”) and sheet vinyl
- Insulation/fireproofing: Spray-applied, vermiculite, monokote, thermal system insulation (TSI) e.g. Aircell, Magnesia or Mag (fiberglass, cellulose and mineral wool exempt from testing requirement)
- Exterior walls: cement siding shingles (Transite/CAB)
- Heating: White TSI paper that is complete wrap or seam tape on ducting, air-duct cement and insulation
- Fire doors, fire/kiln brick and fireproofing
- Surfacing materials for interior wall and ceiling systems: textured surfacing material that covers the entire surface of the wall and or ceiling system e.g. spray-on, trowel-applied, skim or brown coats, orange peel and “popcorn” texture
- Insulation: block, boiler, and spray-applied sink undercoating
- Gaskets: furnace, mechanical (not automotive), boiler, and wood stove
- Roofing materials: tar paper, felt, silver/white roofing paint, Nicolite paper (white paper used under cedar shingles and parapet metal siding)
- Various compounds: window glazing, adhesives, caulks, patching, mastics and vapor barrier products (plastic or polyethylene synthetic materials such as “Tyvek” are exempt from testing)
- Electrical: switch gear, circuit boxes and fuse panels from industrial applications and some residential applications; wiring with cloth insulation (Wiring commonly referred to as Romex is exempt.)
4. Why do I need asbestos testing?
In order to dispose of potentially asbestos containing materials, you’ll need laboratory certification that those materials contain 1% or less asbestos by weight. Otherwise, you won’t be able to dispose of those materials at Metro transfer stations or any other disposal locations.
5. What if asbestos is found in my home?
If the materials tested contain more than 1% asbestos by weight, you’ll need to perform what is known as “abatement” in order to have the asbestos safely removed and disposed of before completing your demolition or renovation project. Remember though that if you’re not disturbing the asbestos containing materials, they can be safely left alone.