… Trick Question: Asbestos Has No Smell. And You Wouldn’t Love It
Just think of all those wonderful autumn fragrances we enjoy this time of year.
The smell of backyard firepits and burning leaves (where allowed by local ordinance). The turkey, basting in the oven. That Old Lady Perfume your favorite aunt always wears to your Thanksgiving gathering (where allowed by local ordinance).
(Yes, some perfumes are strictly forbidden by local ordinance, with good reason, and you should probably have your aunt check into it ahead of time.)
And, of course, the wafting aroma of the asbestos particles in the air, floating around you and looking for an opportunity to impale themselves in your lungs and cause deadly mesothelioma lung cancer.
What, you don’t recall the scent of asbestos?
That’s right, you don’t. Because asbestos, while it is potentially deadly (as described above), and while it is still legal, and while it probably is integrated into your home’s building materials and other products all around you… well, it’s 100% odorless.
You Can’t Smell Asbestos…
… And that’s part of what makes it so dangerous.
Now, there’s no need to panic. Asbestos isn’t dangerous in its undisturbed form, as part of your home’s building materials, for instance. There’s a high likelihood you have asbestos in your ceiling or floor tiles, or plumbing and thermal insulation, to name a few common materials.
But when those materials are disturbed, such as by an unexpected disaster like a basement flood or a house fire (or a Do-It-Yourself home improvement project gone awry), the asbestos breaks up into microscopic particles, prolonged exposure to which can cause illness you can’t come back from.
Yes, those asbestos particles are microscopic. You can’t see asbestos… and since it’s 100% odorless, you can’t smell it, either.
Also, you can’t hear it, can’t taste it, and can’t feel it. You might as well figure it’s sneaking up on you, and ready to attack without warning!
… And It’s Still Legal In The United States
“If asbestos is so dangerous,” you might ask, “why hasn’t the government outlawed it?”
As a matter of fact, the U.S. government did outlaw asbestos about a generation ago, and it’s still illegal to produce products with asbestos in America today.
But the total ban was overturned just a few years after it went into effect (can you say “lobbyists?”), and now the only way asbestos can end up in your home or workplace is by having it imported.
And since importing asbestos-laden products into the U.S. is not illegal… and since those products are generally cheap to make and use… many tons of asbestos are imported into the country every year.
So yes, you are probably surrounded by asbestos-containing materials, both at home and at work.
And it isn’t just contained in building materials!
Your favorite aunt’s perfume is one thing… but if she bought her makeup and faux jewelry at certain stores (I won’t mention any names, except that of Claire’s Boutiques, which ended up on the wrong side of a well-publicized legal battle), those things could contain asbestos as well.
You can smell her perfume… but you can’t smell asbestos.
The only way to be sure your property’s safe is to have it tested by a professional. And if you do have an asbestos problem, having it abated is likely much less expensive than you think. It’s certainly less expensive than the price you’d pay not to get rid of it! Have your place tested, and you can enjoy the fragrances of autumn with renewed peace-of-mind. Where permitted by local ordinance.