How to Find Out if You Have Been Exposed to Asbestos

Moshe Amos

Asbestos refers to six naturally occurring minerals that exist as bundles of fiber that can separate into thin threads.

Asbestos fibers don’t conduct electricity and are resistant to fire, chemicals, and heat. These properties make asbestos appropriate for multiple industries such as roofing, insulation, and flooring. 

However, asbestos got banned for use in buildings due to the health risks. When left undisturbed, asbestos is harmless. But, if the material gets damaged, it can produce fibers in the form of fine dust. 

What Makes Asbestos Dangerous?

The danger in asbestos comes from the microscopic-thin fibers. Since they are tiny, they can remain suspended in the air for days after the initial disturbance. 

When you breathe them in, they attach to your lung tissues, causing scarring, inflammation, and serious illnesses. 

Asbestos exposure can increase the risk of getting:

  • Mesothelioma; cancer of the lining of the stomach and lung cavity
  • Lung cancer
  • Asbestosis, which is permanent scarring of the lung tissue
  • Cancer of the throat, kidney, and gastrintestinal tract
  • Scarring of the lung lining and accumulation of fluid around the lungs

Which Products Have Asbestos?

Asbestos became popular during World War II. Some building materials with asbestos are such as:

  • Asbestos roofing, siding, and cement shingles
  • Floors and walls near woodburning stoves may have asbestos millboard, paper, or cement sheets for protection
  • Blown-in attic insulation
  • Furnace, duct, and pipe insulation
  • Basement boilers and pipes
  • Joint and patching compounds
  • Floor tiles and adhesives
  • Artificial embers and ashes in gas-powered fireplaces
  • Fireproof products and fire-resistant materials suc
  • h as gloves, curtains, blankets, table pads, and old stovetops
  • Gardening products and attic insulation with vermiculite
  • Gaskets, brake pads and linings, and clutch facings in vehicles
  • Some adhesives, coatings, textured paints, and plastics

Is Asbestos Use in Building Materials Legal?

The United States passed regulations that limited asbestos use in the late ’70s. These regulations ensure:

  • There’s no use of asbestos in places where it could mix with air, such as gas fireplaces
  • If there’s the use of asbestos materials, regular inspections should ensure the material remains undamaged and intact
  • There are guidelines to ensure asbestos particles don’t escape into the air during use

When Does Asbestos Become Dangerous?

All types or forms of asbestos fibers can be dangerous. There’s no quick way to identify asbestos in the air you’re breathing. You can’t tell if it’s harming your lungs as it doesn’t make you sneeze, cough, or irritate your throat and skin. 

Asbestos fibers often mix with air when you disturb, damage, or unsafely remove asbestos materials. The fibers are tiny, so it’s impossible to taste, see or feel them.

There’s a professional way to measure asbestos fibers suspended in the air. The measurements are in fibers per cubic centimeter of air (f/cc) units. According to health professionals, clean air should have an asbestos level of 0.01 f/cc.

If exposed to asbestos, the harmful effects will depend on several factors, including:

  • The intensity or how much asbestos is present
  • The duration of exposure
  • The intake method, whether it was through eating, drinking, or breathing the fibers
  • Genetic mutations that make some people more likely to develop diseases
  • Individual risk factors such as pre-existing lung diseases and smoking
  • The material in use, asbestos, is more harmful when released into the air, like during sawing, than when bonded within a product like tiles

It can also depend on personal characteristics such as your age, gender, and health status.

How Much Asbestos Is Harmful?

Any amount of asbestos is unsafe. All materials that have more than 1% of asbestos minerals have asbestos. High concentrations are more likely to cause asbestos-related diseases.

It’s possible to get mesothelioma even from the dust that remains on clothes if someone around you works using asbestos.

How Long Does It Take to Develop Asbestos-related Diseases?

Asbestos diseases usually progress after a latency period. This refers to the duration between when the asbestos enters your lungs to when you start experiencing symptoms. The latency period can be anywhere between ten and forty years. 

Although not every exposed person develops an asbestos disease, the risk is very high. All asbestos-related illnesses become complicated, if not impossible, to cure.

It’s therefore essential to prevent asbestos fibers from entering your lungs.

Symptoms of Asbestos-related Diseases

Since asbestos-related diseases have a latency period, you may not have any immediate symptoms. Some warning signs and symptoms can be:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Extreme fatigue, especially with other symptoms like unexplained weight loss and coughing
  • Wheezing, persistent dry cough, or changing cough patterns
  • Bloodstains in the sputum
  • Sudden weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Swelling in the face or neck

If you notice one or multiple of these symptoms, it’s best to seek medical assistance right away. Since other medical conditions can have similar symptoms, medical tests will help you eliminate other possibilities. When caught in the early stages, asbestos-related illnesses can be treatable.

Are All Asbestos Products Dangerous?

Asbestos fibers are harmless unless they mix with air. Currently, building materials and products with asbestos bond it within the product. When used appropriately and in good condition, such products have minimal health risks.

However, building demolition, damaging, sanding, or tearing the material can release the microscopic fibers.

What if the Asbestos Material Has Damages?

If you notice any damages to the material, get in touch with a professional company to sample and test the material. If asbestos is present, you’ll need to repair or remove the fabric to prevent releasing the fibers.

Avoid handling the material yourself, but hire an asbestos professional to repair or remove it. Mishandling the material is riskier than leaving it as you found it.

What Should I Do if I Notice Asbestos Material in My Home?

It isn’t easy to ascertain that your home has asbestos. However, home constructions between the 1940s and 1970s are more likely to have materials with asbestos. 

If you notice asbestos materials in your home, the best move is to leave them as-is. Regardless of the amount and location, allow professionals such as NYTDR to handle it correctly. By touching or disturbing the material, you’re risking releasing the fibers.

NYTDR has a team of professionals to handle the entire process. If your insurance has not already sent an insurance adjuster, NYTDR will bring one in to inspects and evaluate your entire home as the specialists dispose of any contaminated materials.

They have the appropriate knowledge, techniques, tools, and equipment to ensure your home remains safe. You can trust NYTDR with the complete restoration of your home to an even better condition.


Moshe Amos

Moshe has more over 15 years as a licensed contractor in the New York City area. 

As a New York State-licensed Mold Assessor, he is especially knowledgeable about mold assessment and remediation.


Fire & Water Damage ‧ Mold Remediation ‧ Asbestos & Lead ‧ All Abatement ‧ Total Renovation