Most buildings and residences built prior to 1980 contain asbestos in some form. For the last thirty years, asbestos has generally been known to be a grave health risk. Long before that, the manufacturers of asbestos-containing materials knew that exposure to asbestos dust had the potential to cause fatal diseases, including mesothelioma and lung cancer. Asbestos is a common element found in a wide-range of residential building materials, including joint compound (mud), vinyl floor tiles, popcorn ceiling spray, acoustic ceiling tiles, roofing materials, pipe insulation, window caulk, cements and transite shingles and siding. Prior to the late 1970s, numerous manufacturers incorporated asbestos into these materials because it is heat-resistant and inexpensive to mine and manufacture.
If left undisturbed, asbestos is generally not dangerous. However, when home or building renovations take place, asbestos dust and fibers can become airborne and can be inhaled or ingested.
The vast majority of our clients were exposed to asbestos through their hands-on use of asbestos-containing products at their respective job sites. This also holds true for the use of asbestos-containing joint compounds, cements, insulation and acoustic materials, because the home is one of the most common job sites associated with asbestos-containing materials. Starting in the 1950s, many manufacturers of asbestos-containing building products, including joint compounds, advertised heavily toward the do-it-yourself market. Because asbestos was an ingredient in dozens of residential building materials until the late 1970s, household exposures were commonplace. Because of non-existent or inadequate warnings, many workers and consumers were unknowingly exposed to asbestos during this time period.
The use of asbestos-containing materials in the home not only endangers the worker to asbestos, but also any bystanders (including family members) who are present while the work takes place. Based on Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) testing, once airborne, asbestos fibers can take between four and eighty hours to fall from a ceiling height of nine feet in still air. These time periods increase if there is any turbulence in the air from individuals moving around. The potential for exposure increases when asbestos fibers remain airborne and can become easily inhaled.
The potential for asbestos exposure does not stop here. Asbestos fibers are practically indestructible, and the fibers can permeate every location of the home, including rugs, curtains, clothing and bedding. If not properly contained and cleaned up, asbestos fibers can remain in the home for years. Once asbestos fibers enter the home, they can be repeatedly re-circulated into the air, further exposing family members.
If your home was built prior to 1980, and you plan on having your home remodeled, find out what asbestos materials are present before any form of demolition takes place. If you suspect a material, such as pipe insulation, to contain asbestos, look for signs of wear, including tears or water damage. Damaged materials may release asbestos fibers. This is particularly true if the material is disturbed by hitting or handling it, or if it is exposed to extreme vibrations or air flow. If you are going to make changes in your home that might disturb an asbestos-containing material, repair or removal by a professional is recommended.
The attorneys at Lipsitz & Ponterio, LLC have represented many individuals who have developed mesothelioma or lung cancer as a result of household exposure to asbestos. If you or a loved has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, we urge you to contact us regarding your legal rights.