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  Before you go tearing out moldy building materials consider that they may contain asbestos. Asbestos is a mineral fiber that has been commonly used in a variety of building material for insulation and as a fire retardant. Peak usage was between 1945 and 1980. Several asbestos products were banned around 1978, but asbestos is still used in building products today. Most structures built before 1977 contain asbestos. The possibility of asbestos containing material being present in structures built as late as 1983 should be considered due to grace periods allowed for contractors to use up stockpiles.  
  Asbestos is most commonly found in older homes in pipe and furnace insulating materials, asbestos shingles, wallboard, textured paints, “pop-corn”, “cottage-cheese” ceilings, resilient flooring, vinyl tile and textured surfaces such as joint tape, plaster and patching compounds.  
  Asbestos fibers are too small to be visible. After asbestos is inhaled it remains and accumulates in the lungs. Asbestos can cause lung caner, mesothelioma (a cancer of the chest and abdominal lining), and asbestosis (irreversible lung scaring that can be fatal). Symptoms of these diseases do not show up until many (20-30) years after exposure.  
  There is little danger unless fibers are released and inhaled into the lungs. Do not cut, rip or sand asbestos-containing material. Leave undamaged materials alone, and to the extent possible, prevent them from being touched, damaged or disturbed. Elevated concentrations of air-borne asbestos can occur after cutting, sanding or other remolding activities that disturb asbestos containing materials. Improper attempts to remove these materials can release asbestos fibers into the air in homes, increasing asbestos levels and endangering workers and people living those spaces.  
  All building materials are assumed to contain asbestos unless test sampling proves them to not contain asbestos. In buildings constructed prior to 1980, OSHA requires that Thermal System Insulation, surfacing, asphalt and vinyl flooring be assumed asbestos-containing materials (ACBM) unless testing proves they do not contain asbestos. Due diligence should be used in determine if other materials pre-1980 must be treated as ACM and if materials constructed after 1980 contain asbestos.  
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Revised: July 05, 2017.

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