How Asbestos Hurts Our Homes


A couple of years back, I read a fascinating story about how a British family found asbestos in their pool. It was a big deal because as an insulator, asbestos would have had no place in a swimming pool. Incidentally, it wasn’t the first time I read about that sort of encounter.

Sometime in the early 2000s, I talked to a crew that was clearing asbestos out of an old gym. I was visiting the place because I wanted to pay my respects to some of the locals, who were friends of mine. It seems someone used asbestos sheets under the walls.

The crew was getting ready to seal off the entire gym and remove the sheets. They told me it was a good thing that they hadn’t found any loose fibres so far because that could have been dangerous.

They needed to check the water for the stuff, too.

You’re probably wondering how the fibres got in the water. There’s plenty of ways it could happen. It might have gotten in through tiles, pipes, insulation, or plaster. This is especially true if you’re using older work, or the pool near an older structure.

One good thing is that wet asbestos isn’t a significant hazard. The water keeps the fibres from flying around, so the atmosphere isn’t contaminated. The problem is if you accidentally swallow the pool water, or if the wet fibres get on your body.

Once the fibres dry, they spread. If they spread, they can be inhaled and do damage.

Asbestos is pretty common in older buildings. If your home, gym, or building hasn’t seen a renovation since the 80s, you’re probably looking at potential asbestos hidden somewhere. Whatever you do, don’t even try to DIY anything. That’s a recipe for disaster.

With that in mind, you can try to check your home. If you can, ask for the history of repairs and renovations. Certain areas are more likely to have fibres and sheets than others.

Cement roofing or siding shingles from the old days would have used the substance. The fibres might also be in home insulation. In particular, they saw everyday use between 1930 and 1950, before tapering off.

Artificial ashes and embers in gas-fired fireplaces might also be asbestos. Stove-top pads and other, similar products also use the material. You might want to look at any textured paint from before the 80s as well, including on walls and ceiling joints.

Your walls and floors might also need checking. Maybe even the floors, if you have old vinyl or vinyl sheets there.

Asbestos doesn’t do any damage to the home itself. It’s there because it’s fire-resistant and ideal for insulation. However, if the sheets aren’t intact, they contaminate the air and can be lethal. It’s a slow death, and the damage caused can’t be reversed.

If you see any fibres or sheets, call professionals and don’t disturb the site. It is imperative that you keep out of the area to minimise exposure, and listen to any procedures the asbestos clearing crew recommends.