Like any industry, innovations happen in the HVAC business all the time. Some of the more recent innovations include ultra high-efficiency air conditioners, connected home technology, and air purifiers that destroy the coronavirus. Insulation is a key part of regulating the heat in any building, and for many years industry professionals used asbestos in building construction to prevent heat transfer. However, after decades of using asbestos in construction, researchers learned that exposure to asbestos can have significant health effects.
That brings us to today, the year 2021. Is asbestos something that San Fernando Valley homeowners need to be thinking about? Keep reading for our thoughts on the subject.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a group of minerals that make long, thin fibers, which cannot be seen by the naked eye. These minerals occur naturally in six different forms, mostly in underground rock. Asbestos is a highly durable material that is resistant to heat, fire, and chemical damage. The material works well in insulation because it does not corrode or conduct electricity. For these reasons, asbestos has been used historically in commercial and industrial products.
History on Asbestos Usage in the United States
Researchers in the United States started recognizing the dangers of asbestos in the early 20th century. Still, many major industries continued to use asbestos to create structures and goods throughout the 20th century, hitting its peak in the U.S. from 1940 to 1975. In 1989, the Environmental Protection Agency partially banned products containing asbestos, although most of this ban was lifted in 1991.
The United States stopped producing asbestos in 2002, but importing asbestos for specific uses is still allowed. According to The Mesothelioma Center, the U.S. chemical industry quadrupled its importation of asbestos from 2017 to 2018.
Many people are not aware that asbestos is still being used in the United States. So if you’re surprised, you’re not alone! The U.S. is the only developed country not to have a complete ban on asbestos.
Why Asbestos is Dangerous
Exposure to asbestos can cause a variety of diseases. The great risks are lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.
So, how does someone get exposed to asbestos? Most of the time, the exposure happens during home improvement projects like maintenance, repair, and remodeling. The demolition work that accompanies a major home renovation is another potential major source. When an asbestos-containing material is disturbed or damaged, it can release asbestos particles and fibers into the air. Breathing in these particles causes long-term health problems.
Those who are exposed to asbestos in large quantities over a long period of time are more likely to develop these diseases than those who are only exposed once to a small amount. However, experts agree that no amount of exposure is safe.
Is Asbestos Still a Threat in 2021?
Workers who handle asbestos products are most at risk for health conditions. As mentioned above, asbestos use is legal. Commercial uses of asbestos are still allowed by the EPA. Some products that may contain asbestos include disk brake pads, drum brake linings, roofing felt, cement pipe, automatic transmission components, and millboard.
Although those that work with asbestos have the highest risk, homeowners in Los Angeles and surrounding areas should still be careful. Older homes could have asbestos in the building materials including drywall, insulation, and flooring.
What You Can Do to Reduce Exposure to Asbestos
Based on what you’ve read so far, you’re likely wondering what materials your home contains. Unfortunately, there is no easy way for the average homeowner to identify whether their home has asbestos. Since asbestos is invisible to the naked eye, you can’t visually confirm that your home or a building contains asbestos. What’s worse – the EPA’s policy is to keep remaining asbestos intact. That’s because the material poses more of a threat once it is disturbed.
So what CAN you do? If you have an older home that you are remodeling or you are repairing building damage like drywall or insulation, contact an asbestos-removal professional who can identify contaminated materials and remove them as well as conduct air quality tests.
Canoga Park Heating & Air Conditioning is Here To Help!
Here at Canoga Park Heating & Air Conditioning, we treat all of our customers like family. Being aware of asbestos and the risks associated with exposure is important for us to share, because we want to keep our customers informed and educated about home ownership. If you’d like to keep reading, here are some other helpful articles we’ve written on different topics to educate our customers:
- Ideal Humidity Levels to Avoid Getting Sick
- Tips for Your New Google Nest Thermostat
- How to Deal with Hot Spots in Your House
- Are Air Purifiers Effective in Controlling Indoor Air Pollution?
- Winter Safety Tips for California Residents
Editor’s note: this blog was originally published September 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.