If inhaled, asbestos fibers can cause diseases that harm your respiratory system. Some inhaled fibers are trapped in mucous and expelled by your body. Fibers not expelled will accumulate. Although not all people exposed to asbestos develop health problems, there is no safe level.
Asbestos is the name given to several similar naturally occurring minerals: chrysotile, amosite, and crocidolite. Naturally occurring asbestos is commonly found within serpentine rocks in California. Asbestos can only be identified using a microscope. All homes built prior to 1978 will probably contain asbestos containing materials. In 1989 The Environmental Protection Agency announced a phased ban of asbestos products to be completed by 1996. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the ban in 1991. It is currently legal to manufacture asbestos containing materials.
Common items containing asbestos are:
- Vinyl flooring
- Duct wrapping on heating and air conditioning systems
- Insulation on hot water pipes and boilers
- Some roofing shingles and siding
- Vermiculite attic insulation
- Ceiling and wall insulation
- Sheet rock taping compounds and some ceiling materials
Ceilings having a "cottage cheese" appearance may contain asbestos. Textured walls may also contain asbestos. A key aspect evaluating the risk is if the material is friable (easily crushed to a powder by hand pressure). Friable materials have a greater potential to release fibers.
Guidelines given to real estate agents:
- Asbestos containing materials on the outside of the house such as siding and roofing do not present a real health hazard.
- Asbestos containing material which is in good condition should be of minimal concern.
- Material which is friable, containing asbestos should be considered a health hazard.
- If remodeling plans may disturb asbestos containing materials, evaluate the situation.
Refer to the California Residential Environmental Hazards Booklet which is provided by every home seller in California as a required disclosure,for more information.