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Asbestos Exposure in Homes in 2011 May Cause Mesothelioma in 2050

demolished home with asbestos

Unbeknownst to the majority of Americans, asbestos exposure continues to this day even in our homes. This exposure will likely cause mesothelioma until exposure is stopped. Exposure that occur today, because of the long latency period , will likely be responsible for mesothelioma in 2050.

Perhaps the most significant source of residence based exposure today occurs through the renovation of older homes. Much attention in the past has been focused on asbestos on piping and boiler components. This asbestos is easily identified and tested. A much more dangerous and insidious source of asbestos exposure, however, is that which results from demolishing or altering the drywall board panels that are ubiquitous throughout the United States. From the early 1960s through 1977, a large percentage of walls and ceilings constructed in homes and offices used asbestos containing joint compound to fill the seams or joints between wall board panels. In 1977, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) finally outlawed the use of asbestos in spackle and joint compound. According to the CPSC “inhalable asbestos in the household from consumer patching compounds…presents a great risk due to the presence in the household of persons, such as children, who may be particularly vulnerable to carcinogens.” Even after the ban was announced, however, companies manufacturing the spackle or joint compound made decisions to sell off the entire remaining product rather than recall it from the shelves of retailers and safely dispose of it. No effort however was made to address exposures that would occur as a result of asbestos already installed. The amount of asbestos in homes built with drywall “jointed” with asbestos containing spackle or joint compound during these two decades is incalculable. Its legacy is not. Every time a wall is demolished or altered, asbestos fibers released from the activity will contaminate the home. This contamination will likely produce numerous mesothelioma well into this century.

A key take home message of all this, is that before doing any residential renovations on any home or apartment built before 1980, you should consult an expert to determine if the potential for asbestos exposure exists as a result of alteration or demolition. If you are going to purchase a home built before 1980, have it inspected by someone who is knowledgeable about asbestos. It is also important to inquire about the history of the home and whether any significant abatement or home improvement  projects took place  in recent years . If the answer is yes you should consider the extra step of having sampling done to insure the home is not contaminated by asbestos fibers in any way.

It is only with knowledge and vigilance that we can prevent intentional exposure to mesothelioma-causing substances that will otherwise devastate families in injury and mortality for many years to come.

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