Asbestos, a fibrous mineral consisting of heat and fire resistant properties, has been shown to have serious health effects. 


Due to its heat and fire resistant properties, asbestos has been used in many products for years.  Once the adverse health effects of asbestos were discovered it became difficult and costly to eliminate.


Asbestos in the Home


Asbestos can be found just about anywhere in a home.  Insulation is common but such things as paints and textiles can also be potential sources of asbestos.  The discovery of asbestos in a home can provide a negative connotation for the home owner and potential buyers as well.  However, there are fairly simple remedies for many instances.  Some of the most common household uses for asbestos were roofing materials, tiles, insulation, cement, stove and heating appliance door gaskets and fireproofing products.


The Dangers of Asbestos


The very composition of asbestos is what makes it dangerous. The tiny fibers that make up asbestos can get lodged in the lungs.  Anytime asbestos is used in a manner that allows it to easily fray such as insulation is more dangerous than say, ceiling tiles, where the fibers are better contained.


The three major illnesses that can result from exposure to asbestos are asbestosis, a scarring of the lung tissue, mesothelioma, a cancer affecting the mucous membranes, and lung cancer.  Lung cancer is far and away the most common of the three.  Those with prolonged exposure to asbestos such as contractors and miners are at the greatest risk of developing an asbestos related illness.


Asbestos in a Home Inspection


Even though asbestos is a dangerous substance, the discovery of it during a home inspection does not need to sway your decision to purchase the home.  If asbestos is found in such things as floor tile where it presents little to no risk of becoming airborne there will be no health risks for your family.  If it is discovered in the pipe insulation however, you should look a little further into it.  First, ask to see the asbestos containing substance so you can assess the condition it’s in.  When asbestos products are intact or fully encapsulated they pose no direct threat.  However, if the material is loose and deteriorating or in an area where it can be easily disturbed you should ask to have the situation remedied by the homeowner. Any asbestos containing gaskets on stoves and boilers should be replaced.  The asbestos in these instances can be easily disturbed and become airborne.  The cost of these replacements is minimal.

Once brought to the attention of your real estate agent they should be able to work with the seller to come to an agreement that is acceptable to everyone.

The most important thing you can do when buying or selling a home that contains asbestos is to effectively assess the situation.  The factors that should be addressed are the materials containing the asbestos and their condition.  If you have any questions regarding these issues you should get an assessment and quote for removal from separate sources.  Even if you don’t use it as part of the real estate transaction it may be useful to have this information in the future.