How do you find out if there's asbestos in your home?

Air Apparent?

If your home was built in 1980 or later, it isn't likely to have asbestos components, and if it does, they would have to be labeled accordingly. Homes built before the 1970s likely do have asbestos in their construction materials, which might include the following:

  • insulation: attic and wall insulation in houses built from 1930 through 1950 (and homes with vermiculite insulation up through 1990)
  • heat-proofing surrounds: boards and wall and floor treatments around wood-burning stoves and older furnaces
  • heat and water pipes: exterior wraps and adhesives
  • floor and ceiling tiles: in sheet and drop-tile forms
  • roofing and siding: shingles and sheets with composites of concrete and asphalt
  • wall and ceiling treatments: thick, decorative or soundproofing coatings that resemble popcorn-like grooves or dried foam cottage cheese
  • walls, corners and gaps: joint compounds and patching materials commonly contained asbestos [source: EPA]

These are just some of the most common areas where asbestos products were used, and unfortunately, checking to see if it's in your own home isn't a matter of just eyeing the sources. Asbestos isn't identifiable by sight alone, and it's odorless and unlabeled if used before bans were instituted. Only testing at the microscopic level confirms the presence of asbestos, and this should always be left to a trained professional.

If you suspect that your home, whether a rental or owned property, has hidden asbestos or areas of asbestos dust, it's best to leave everything as is -- the EPA even advises against dusting or vacuuming suspect areas [source: EPA]. Most of all don't do anything abrasive to the area that could cause the release of particles if no dust is visible [source: EPA]. Contact an asbestos professional who can test and recommend ways to remove or cover and contain the asbestos materials if found.

Maybe you're fearful that asbestos is hanging out where you live. How worried should you be?

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