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Remodeling Yourself? Leave Asbestos to the Professionals

When remodeling your home yourself, it is important to take certain precautions. Demolition and remodeling often make asbestos a prevalent danger in American households. Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral that is a known carcinogen. This fiber consists of long, thin fibrous crystals and may be mixed with other substances in order to resist heat, electricity and chemical damage. Due to these characteristics, asbestos was used in many buildings and other structures throughout the 1900s. One estimation is that up to 80 percent of all buildings constructed before 1978 had asbestos within the design.

Knowing whether or not asbestos is in your home takes a licensed professional, because it is difficult to determine conclusively whether or not a building material contains asbestos merely by looking at it. If you believe that your house contains asbestos, the Air Pollution Control District (APCD) recommends using a licensed asbestos removal contractor who knows the correct safe procedure of ridding the toxin from your home. Not only is removing asbestos yourself a daunting task, but also extremely dangerous. There are very strict procedures that need to be followed in order to not damage the asbestos, and only trained professionals are qualified to handle these procedures.

Asbestos is typically found in insulation, ceilings, and walls. There is no safe level of exposure, and it is highly dangerous when it is disturbed. Damage to asbestos releases the fibers into the air and once inhaled, it can become lodged in the linings of organs—such as the heart, lungs, and abdomen. This may lead to various asbestos-related diseases such as asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other forms of asbestos cancer.

Mesothelioma (mez-uh-thee-lee-O-muh) is a type of cancer that can be either malignant or benign. Malignant mesothelioma is the most hazardous form of this cancer and in most cases will lead to death. This cancer affects the mesothelium, which protects the heart, stomach, lungs, and other organs by making a special fluid that allows the organs to move. Due to the latency period—which can be 20 to 50 years—it is difficult to diagnose and treat.

The risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma increases with the number of fibers inhaled. The risk of lung cancer from inhaling asbestos fibers is also greater if you smoke.

If you believe that your home contains asbestos that has been disturbed, do not sweep, dust, or vacuum the debris. Immediately contact a professional to clean it up. Additionally, you should see your doctor as soon as possible. Asbestos cancer treatments are more effective and symptoms are more identifiable if your doctor is aware that you have been exposed to asbestos.

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