Industry News

Why Asbestos Is Dangerous … And When It Isn’t

We got a rather panicky call to our busy switchboard the other day, from a guy we’ll call George.  (His real name is Mark, but we prefer calling him George.)

“I need an asbestos test at my place!” George practically bellowed into the phone.  “Right away!  Yesterday, if possible!”

We needed to soothe George, and calm him down, but we couldn’t comply with his request for three important reasons:

  1. We don’t test for asbestos.  It’s a conflict of interest thing.  If a so-called abatement company does the testing, the likelihood is dramatically high that they WILL find something you need to abate.  So we refer testing requests to companies we trust who specialize in testing.
  2. Yesterday is a memory, and tomorrow is way too soon anyway.
  3. George was hyperventilating, and it was freaking us out a little.

“I’ve been doing some research,” George finally managed.  “I see the federal government is trying to ban asbestos (again – it was banned briefly in the ‘80s), and I wondered why.  So I looked it up, and it turns out asbestos causes mesothelioma!  And that’s incurable!”

True, we said.  We also mentioned that George could’ve been well-versed in the dangers of asbestos if he’d been a loyal reader of this space, which he now is.  Also, we asked why he felt such urgency to get his place tested.

“It’s all around me!” George said.  “Probably!  In my wall boards and floor tiles, in my pipe insulation, even in my teenage daughter’s fake jewelry and tacky makeup!”

True, we said again.  It’s possible you have asbestos-laden building materials throughout your place.  After all, it’s still legal to import asbestos-containing products into the U.S., and tons of the ugly stuff arrive on our shores every year.

First, we suggested, throw away the fake jewelry and makeup (especially if the makeup contains talcum, which is often a traveling companion with asbestos particles).  Then, tell us why you think your home has airborne asbestos.

“Airborne?” George asked.

Yes, we said.  We told George he was correct in understanding why asbestos is dangerous.  When products containing asbestos are disturbed, microscopic shards of asbestos are released into the air which, after enough exposure, cause types of cancer you can’t come back from.