The design of the children's room for the teenager on the attic is in the loft style, the ceiling is hemmed with wood and the walls are white

Is Asbestos in Your Attic Dangerous?

As a homeowner, you have numerous tasks on your to-do list, from finishing your basement to finally replacing that burnt-out porch lightbulb.

If you only use your attic to store holiday ornaments, its problems may be the last thing on your mind. But if your neighbor or contractor mentions that your insulation looks like it may contain asbestos, you might be left wondering, is asbestos in the attic dangerous?

The short answer is yes. Long-term exposure to asbestos can cause serious health problems.1

In this guide, we’ll explain the ins-and-outs of asbestos, its potential health hazards, and the best way to remove the harmful substance from your home. If you don’t know what asbestos in an attic looks like, our team is here to help. 

What is Asbestos?

Before the 1980s, asbestos fiber was commonly used as a building material. Builders previously used asbestos because it resists electricity, corrosion, and heat—making it an ideal insulator.2 

This naturally occurring mineral is toxic—and unfortunately, its tiny particles make it easy to inhale. Over time, constant exposure of harmful asbestos fibres can lead to lung disease or a number of other health problems.

While the risks of asbestos are now well-understood, if your home was built before the 1980s, your insulation could still be a cause for concern.

If asbestos is in an attic, it’s usually in vermiculite insulation.3 

Not sure what material was used in your attic? Take a look to see if it has the following characteristics:

  • A pebble- or stone-like texture 
  • A light-brown, greyish-silver, or gold hue
  • Shiny flecks throughout

If you find what appears to be vermiculite insulation in your attic, don’t immediately panic.

Not all vermiculite insulation contains asbestos. A house built after the 1990s is less likely to have an asbestos problem. However, it’s always best to be cautious and take the necessary safety precautions when testing your insulation material. 

Health Impacts of Asbestos

Vermiculite insulation that contains asbestos is most dangerous if disturbed. For example, dedicated DIY-ers may try to replace their insulation material on their own. But removing the old insulation means sending asbestos fibers into the air.

Without property safety precautions, these asbestos fibers can be inhaled into the lungs and cause serious health problems. 

The four most common health impacts from asbestos exposure include:4 

  • Asbestosis – A non-cancerous condition that includes difficulty breathing because of scarring in the lungs.
  • Pleural Disease – A non-cancerous condition that includes the thickening of the membrane around the chest cavity and lungs as well as a build-up of fluid around the lungs. 
  • Mesothelioma – A rare type of cancer that can impact the lining of the chest cavity, the lungs, the abdominal cavity, or other internal organs. 
  • Lung Cancer – A type of cancer in which a malignant tumor obstructs airways. 

With most of these conditions, it can take a minimum of 15 years to develop symptoms and receive a diagnosis.

So it’s best to have your house checked for asbestos particles even if you’re not experiencing exposure symptoms. The cost of professional asbestos removal is certainly worth it when considering the risk it can have on your health.

Who Is At Risk? 

Asbestos is toxic and can be extremely dangerous. However, not all people exposed to asbestos develop health problems. A person’s risk for developing a health problem from exposure depends on multiple factors, including:5

  • How long and often a person is exposed
  • The amount of asbestos in the air
  • Whether the person has a history of respiratory conditions 
  • Whether the person smokes 
  • How long it has been since the exposure

Often, asbestos-related health conditions arise from years of exposure in the workplace.

However, home-related exposure is still possible and can still lead to health problems. 

What To Do If You Suspect Asbestos 

Even if you’re not sure if your attic insulation contains asbestos, it’s important to take precautions. 

  • If you’re concerned there might be asbestos in your attic, the first rule is to leave it alone. Any disturbance could lead to scattering asbestos fibers into the air around you.
  • Until you have your insulation inspected by an accredited asbestos expert, restrict access to the attic. Don’t store anything in the attic or move your pre-existing storage boxes. 

Avoiding all contact with the insulation is the most important step you can take to keep your household safe. Do not remove the insulation yourself, and be aware of disturbing it through other house renovations. Performing any renovations near the asbestos such as drilling, hammering, sanding, and more could disturb it and send fibers into the air. 

Instead, call a professional to help you safely remove and replace asbestos insulation.

Attic Construction: Your Asbestos Experts

If you believe you may have asbestos in your attic, there’s only so far Google can take you. Due to the toxicity of the material, it’s important to work with a licensed contractor who can take adequate safety precautions while assessing your insulation and, if necessary, removing it.

At Attic Construction, we specialize in attics—from removing dangerous, outdated materials to reducing your energy costs.

Give us a call today. Our team of experts will inspect your attic for asbestos and make a plan for your attic based on our findings. 

Sources: 

  1. EPA. Learn About Asbestos. https://www.epa.gov/asbestos/learn-about-asbestos#find 
  2. Absestos.com. Asbestos. https://www.asbestos.com/asbestos/ 
  3. The Spruce. What Does Asbestos Insulation Look Like? https://www.thespruce.com/how-to-identify-dangerous-asbestos-insulation-4119906 
  4. CDC. Health Effects of Asbestos. https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/asbestos/health_effects_asbestos.html 

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