Asbestos was once a popular construction material. Even today, there are still some buildings that contain this product. It has been used as a reinforcing material for various building elements including roof shingles because of its high fire retardant properties. Purchasing any property with this hazardous material should require an intense scrutiny before such an investment.
Asbestos is a form of silicate mineral that is highly regarded for its thin fibrous crystals and the development of this combination of cement and asbestos is credited to Ludwig Hatschek. The fiber is used as reinforcement for cement and enhances the durability of the material. Due to its unique properties, it has been incorporated into various products, including shingles and was very popular from the early 1900’s up to the 1970’s. At that time, it was discovered that exposure to this fiber could cause serious health complications including cancer.
According to numerous health studies, the inhalation of asbestos fibers has been linked to serious lung complications, including cancer. Deaths related to the inhalation of these fibers were discovered as early as 1903. Researchers began to notice that people in towns located near the mines where the material was mined had a high rate of lung disease and even death; however, this discovery only identified this problem as a work-related disease. By 1970, the health crisis over asbestos was so prevalent that it was hard to ignore the link between it and major health issues. Due to growing public concern, the material was phased out of the market and banned entirely in 2003.
Today, there are still many buildings that contain asbestos material, particularly roofs as it has a lifespan of at least 30 to 40 years. So what should happen if this hazardous material is found to be in a building, especially a private residence? The first thing that should be done is to not panic. The material is only dangerous if large amounts of the fiber are inhaled. The sensible thing to do is check the condition of the roof. If the shingles are showing signs of deterioration and asphalt fibers are starting to be noticed, it is best to consider replacement. For roofs that are still in good condition, the best way to avoid exposure is by coating the roof. The additional layer of protective paint will seal the fibers and prevent them from becoming airborne. Once the serviceable life of the roof has ended, the roof should then be replaced immediately to prevent any exposure risk.
Unlike a conventional roof, there are important considerations that should be applied when cleaning asbestos shingles. First of all, the material must be handled gently so as not to expose the delicate fibers embedded in the shingle. Using pressurized water for cleaning should be avoided as it can damage the shingles and expose those harmful fibers. Use of strong chemicals to clean the roof should also not be considered as that action may corrode the cement layer. If a roof is infested with moss and other plant life, it should be removed gently with a soft bristle brush and mild detergent so as not to damage the shingles. If repair is necessary, always leave the job to an experienced roofer who knows how to handle asbestos.
Asbestos is very dangerous if inhaled and contact should be avoided as much as possible. Hopefully this article has provided helpful information regarding the dangers associated with this material and provided tips on how to reduce the risk of exposure!
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