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8 Reasons Why Your Home Needs an Asbestos Inspection: An Interview with Tom Will of East Coast Environmental, P.A.

By Tom Will

Please tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

East Coast Environmental, P.A. has been providing environmental assessment and cleanup services to central and eastern North Carolina since 1992. Services that we or our associates offer the home owner include home heating oil tank leak checks, removal and cleanup, asbestos inspections, lead paint inspections and mold inspections.

Is there a common misconception that people have about asbestos contamination?

Asbestos is a mineral that was once mined in the USA and continues to be mined in other countries including Canada. It is no longer allowed to be used in building materials made in the USA but is still used in building materials made in other countries including Canada and China and is still imported into the USA in these materials. Asbestos is an excellent product if used in certain applications and is not harmful when it is in good condition and is part of a non friable building material (non-friable means you cannot crush it with your bare hand). Examples of non-friable building products are floor tiles or exterior siding. However, if these materials become damaged through age and normal wear or are intentionally sanded or abraded then asbestos fibers are released into the air where they become a potential health concern.

Can you briefly explain what an asbestos assessment entails?

An asbestos assessment includes a thorough visible inspection of all available parts of a home including the exterior, craw space, all interior living spaces and also the attic area. An inspector licensed by the State of North Carolina should be contracted to complete such an inspection. Prior to the inspection the person most familiar with the history of the home should provide the inspector with any available historical information regarding the home including date constructed and renovations. The inspector will then tour the home to the maximum extent possible followed by the collection of samples of suspect building materials for submittal to an analytical laboratory.

What are the most common causes of asbestos contamination in homes?

Asbestos is not man made and is actually a very good building material which provides excellent insulation and strengthening properties to a variety of building materials. Asbestos was once used in a variety of home building materials including piping insulation, vinyl flooring, floor tiles and floor tile glue, wall board, wall board mud, textured ceiling or wall materials as well as a variety of roofing materials. The USA banned the inclusion of asbestos in manufacturing these building materials during the late 1970s. However, as stated above these same building materials can contain asbestos when manufactured and imported from other countries. This is why even today it is a good idea when buying building materials, including wall board and wall board mud to confirm that they do not contain asbestos prior to bringing them into your home.

When should a homeowner or home buyer get an asbestos inspection?

If a home was constructed prior to approximately 1980 then it is always a good idea to get an asbestos inspection. Anyone contemplating purchasing a home or an existing home owner considering a major renovation to an older home such as removing walls, flooring or textured ceiling should always have one done ahead of time. Any activities that could result in releasing asbestos fibers into the interior of the home could potentially contaminate the entire home. The subsequent decontamination of a home by a licensed asbestos abatement contractor could easily cost over $10,000 depending on the size of the home.

What are some of the dangers of having high levels of asbestos in your home?

Asbestos is not harmful unless it becomes air borne. It is then inhaled into the lungs where the body cannot remove or absorb it. Breathing asbestos into your lungs is a silent killer. It can take many years for the symptoms of lung damage to show up. The two most common types of asbestos related diseases are asbestosis and mesothelioma. Asbestosis is the result of scar tissue building up in the lungs which causes symptoms ranging from permanent shortness of breath to as extreme as death. The other less common disease resulting from exposure to asbestos is mesothelioma which is a cancer of the membrane lining of the lungs and abdomen. There is currently no good cure for mesothelioma and this disease normally results in death. One famous victim of mesothelioma was the actor Steve McQueen who was reportedly exposed to asbestos as a child when his father worked with asbestos at a ship yard and would come home at night with asbestos powder in his clothes.

Do you have any tips for what to do after receiving your inspection report?

If your asbestos report states that you have no asbestos containing building materials then you should be all clear to complete your renovation with regard to the subject of asbestos containing building materials. If asbestos containing building materials are identified then stop and do not disturb these materials in any manner that will release air born asbestos particles. Next, have the materials removed by a licensed asbestos abatement contractor to avoid a potentially much more expensive whole house cleanup if the asbestos containing materials are improperly removed.

What's the best way for people to reach you and your company?

For more information on East Coast Environmental, P.A please go to our website located at www.eastcoastenv.com. I can also be reached through email at ecoaste@bellsouth.net or by phone at (919) 772-0268 or (919) 349-5969.

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