Asbestos Exposure Increasingly Happening at Home, Research Shows

Though the rate of cancers related to asbestos exposure has slowed down in recent years, research reveals that exposure to asbestos in homes is actually on the rise. What has changed over the last ten years? One of the biggest shifts in asbestos exposure has actually been the method by which people are exposed to this material. Because the production of asbestos was outlawed in 2004, there is far less direct exposure.

During the 1960s and 1970s, asbestos was one of the most common materials used for home insulation. The people that were most commonly exposed to asbestos were those who worked with this material. That meant that construction workers, miners, and ship builders were the most likely to come into contact with asbestos, breathing it in, where it could cause a range of different medical issues, from asbestosis to mesothelioma.

Today, the people who are most likely to be exposed to asbestos are those who live in those older homes, where asbestos was used as insulation, especially those that take out old insulation that contains asbestos, without using the right kind of protection. While there is a much lower risk of exposure during this process, it still does exist, and because more and more older homes are being renovated today, more and more people are being exposed to asbestos in their own homes, instead of in the workplace, which was the most common place to be exposed in the past.

Why asbestos so dangerous? Because unlike other materials that will eventually break down, asbestos does not. Once you breathe it in, it will stay in the lungs forever. The risk of developing mesothelioma will continue to increase as the person breathes in more fibers.

One of the most major issues when it comes to connecting asbestos exposure to those who eventually develop asbestos-related diseases is that first, doctors are not vigilant about exploring a patient’s past to discover when and how they might have been exposed and second, simply that exposure happened so long ago, long before the disease appears, that it might be impossible for the individual to remember when and how they were exposed.

Don’t Take Chances with Lead in Your Home

If you’ve been paying attention to the water issues going on in Flint, Michigan, you might be a little concerned about the possibility of lead poisoning in your own home. While the issues that are happening in Flint are unlikely to happen in other communities in the country, there is still the danger of lead poisoning, especially in older homes, which often contain lead paint.

Lead is dangerous, not just to adults, but also to children. Lead has been used widely for household products, from paint, to batteries, to ceramics, to plumbing, to cosmetics and beyond. While many states have instituted regulations to reduce this hazardous mineral and its effects, there are still serious issues in older homes that need to be addressed. This is not something that should be taken lightly. Most homes built before 1980 were likely painted with paint that contained lead. About a quarter of all homes built in between 1960 and 1977 still contain lead paint. Up to 87% of homes built before 1960 are likely to contain lead paint.

If the paint has been well-maintained and is not peeling or chipping, it is probably not dangerous. If it is cracking, is moldy, or has started to peel, this is an issue that should be addressed immediately.

Children are the most affected by lead. Their systems absorb more of the lead that enters them and they are more likely to be contaminated by lead, because they are more likely to put dangerous things in their mouths. Lead can lead to behavioral issues, learning disabilities, anemia, neurological disorders, slow development, and more—and not just in children. Adults who are exposed to lead are more likely to have cardiovascular and kidney issues.

If you are concerned that your child might have been exposed to lead, ask your doctor about doing a blood test. If you want to lower the risk of exposure in your home, you can:

  • Survey your home for areas where the paint might be compromised.
  • Dust regularly and clean your home thoroughly.
  • Clean your paint and surrounding areas with a wet rag to get rid of dust.
  • Regularly wash toys, bottles, pacifiers, and hands of your children.
  • Teach your kids to wash their hands after coming in from playing outside.

Home Repairs and Potential Asbestos Exposure Concerns

Today, a person is the most likely to be exposed to asbestos during a home repair or renovation. Up until the 1970s, asbestos was one of the most common materials used for insulating both commercial and residential buildings. When tests started to reveal just how dangerous this material was, it was banned in most places, but there are still thousands of buildings standing that were built using materials that contain asbestos. Because of its ability to resist fire, it was used in ceiling tiles, shingles, the underlayment for roofs, sealants, insulating walls and ductwork and much, much more.

Exposure to asbestos is linked to the development of mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis. Usually, these conditions will not appear for up to forty years after exposure, making it difficult for the individual to know when they were exposed and how they were exposed.

Because of the wide variety of materials that contain asbestos and because many of the homes that were built using this materials are now being renovated or regularly require repairs, many homeowners are now being exposed to asbestos, even though its use has been banned for decades. According to reports, there are more than three thousand different materials that contain asbestos, and a majority of them are building materials. Even vinyl flooring can contain asbestos.

Repairs or renovations that disturb the asbestos fibers can turn the average home into a dangerous place to live. For example, repairing shingles after a windstorm can expose a homeowner to airborne asbestos fibers, which were stirred up by the wind. Tearing down walls or removing old sheetrock and installing new sheetrock can have the same effect.

Luckily, there are ways for you to test your home and its materials for asbestos. Once you are aware that asbestos might be an issue, you can test materials that might contain asbestos and, instead of handling them yourself, have them handled by qualified professionals, like Brickley Environmental‚ who are certified to handle these hazardous materials.

How to Test for Lead in Your Home Water Supply

Lead Pipes

The recent Flint, Michigan water crisis might lead you to wonder if your home’s water supply contains lead. According to the EPA, up to 20% of all lead exposures comes from water that is exposed to lead. If there are babies in a house, they can get up to 60% of their total lead exposure just from drinking formula that is made with lead-contaminated water.

Once it enters a person’s system, lead stays for a long time, collecting in the blood stream and becoming toxic over time. While research has shown that lead is not absorbed through the skin when you are bathing, if it is used for cooking, drinking, or brushing teeth, it can still be dangerous.

How does lead get into a water supply?

In Flint, the water is being contaminated by lead in the plumbing materials. This is one of the most common ways for residential water supplies to be contaminated by lead. Your faucets, fittings, solder, or even the pipes themselves might contain lead, which, over time, seeps into the water. Any home built before 1986 is likely to have plumbing that contains lead. This does not necessarily mean that there is lead in your water supply, just that there is a higher chance of there being lead in your water.

How can I figure out if there is lead in my water supply?

The first thing you need to do is to call the facility that supplies your water. Ask for them to send you a copy of the consumer confidence report, which should tell you when the water was last tested and what the levels of different minerals were during that test. If there were fewer than 15 parts per billion, your water is safe.

If the level of lead is higher than 15 parts per billion, stop using your hot water, as warm water is more likely to release lead from your pipes. Install a filter that says it filters lead.

Even if the test provided to you says that you have acceptable levels of lead in your water, you might still want to test it yourself. Ask your water supplier if they can come test your water. If not, get a water testing kit, which allows you to collect water and send it to a lab for testing.

Asbestos Found in Kids Crayons, Toy Kits

When it was first discovered that asbestos caused, among a number of horrific diseases, mesothelioma, there was a huge cultural and legal push to have it removed from manufacturing, construction, and other industries where it was prevalent. Steps were taken to remove it from schools, homes, and office buildings.

This doesn’t mean, however, that asbestos is completely gone from our society. It still lurks in many older buildings, where it was used as an extremely efficient and fire-retardant insulation. Some industries still use it for those purposes. One place it wasn’t expected to be found, however, was in crayons and toy kits being sold in the US. According to an Environmental Working Group Action Fund report, four brands of crayons contained asbestos, as well as two brands of crime-scene toy kits.

The author of the study said that she was very surprised to have found this dangerous material in items that are obviously intended for children, especially considering that the earlier a person is exposed to asbestos, the more likely they are to develop an asbestos-related disease later in life. She was also surprised because asbestos was found in these items years ago and the manufacturers of these toys promised that the problem would be properly dealt with.

The study reports that all of the items found to be containing asbestos were made in China, which is part of why figuring out where the asbestos is coming from and enforcing measures to have it removed from these items is so difficult.

Why is asbestos so dangerous? The small, invisible fibers are easy to inhale. Once the fibers are in the lungs, they cause scarring and inflammation that makes it difficult to breathe, which eventually may contribute to lung cancer and can develop into mesothelioma, which is one of the most aggressive and deadly cancers in the world.

The EWG report says that the crayons and kits were purchased on American soil, early in 2015. Testing was then conducted both by the EWG and then confirmed by an independent laboratory. They concluded the study saying that there is no such thing as a safe number of asbestos fibers in the lung, and even limited exposure puts a person at a high risk of developing a disease.