Owners of buildings built before the mid-eighties may need to investigate the presence of asbestos in their property. The most common source is insulation, but it can also be found in dry wall and ceiling and floor tiles. Extreme care must be used around asbestos, as disturbing it may release particles into the surrounding air that can be accidentally inhaled.

   Asbestos is a well-known carcinogen and is linked to several different types of lung disease. It disperses easily into the air, where it is then breathed in and can remain in the lungs from hours to days. The chemicals in asbestos can cause cancer, and the longer it remains in the lungs the more damage it will do. The fibers themselves damage lung tissue and long-term exposure produces a hardening of the lung walls, a disease called asbestosis. Asbestos can also enter the body through contaminated drinking water, which is especially dangerous for children.

A view of microscopic asbestos fibers
Technicians containing asbestos before it spreads.

   If asbestos or asbestos-containing materials are found, the EPA advises to leave it alone if it is in good condition. Asbestos is safe as long as it hasnt begun to break down and release fibers. If you believe you have an asbestos problem, consult certified professionals on the best course of action and contact the government. The EPA recommends against any tampering with asbestos by untrained homeowners.

   More information can be found at the EPA's Asbestos General Information page or the state government's Asbestos in North Carolina site.

The EPA's Asbestos Action Program can be reached at (202)260-3904.

American Lung Association - ask for a copy of Indoor Air Pollution Fact Sheet - Asbestos and Air Pollution in Your Home.