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KatyE 09-04-2009 11:27 AM

Looking for sanity re:asbestos
I've recently begun researching asbestos because I think that our siding is the old asbestos shingles. No problem there, I know it's pretty safe. However, I tend to freak out, and I've started remembering some things that might be a problem. Most recently, when we had satellite television set up, the installer drilled a hole through the shingles, right into our living room. Would that be enough to have caused problems?
More worrisome is something I worked on about 5 years ago. I stripped wallpaper off from one bedroom, and the walls were all different--one wall was wood planks, one looked like plaster, and two were something that I couldn't identify. It looked sort of like concrete, but it was softer--almost kind of crumbly when I scraped the paper off with a putty knife. I covered everything with joint compound to texture it and cover over all the differences between walls (looks awesome, if I do say so), but now I am wondering if that crumbly stuff was asbestos. Now, I do tend to get myself worked up in a tizzy, so I keep telling myself to calm down. However, without knowledge, the mind goes to bad places. So can anyone help me? Am I guaranteed to leave my children motherless? Looking for common sense, not professional medical opinions!

kok328 09-04-2009 12:18 PM

From one fellow Michigander to another; relax. Sounds like the damage has already been done. If it was asbestos you disturbed it during the redoing of the childs bedroom. Now that it's covered back up it shouldn't be a problem. The problem arises when you start messing with the stuff. The satelite cable shouldn't be a problem either as the hole was sealed up after the cable was installed effectively sealing any problems intact. Just don't mess with the stuff anymore and if necessary, wear a particle mask and tyvek suit when you do. The only other option is to have all suspected areas tested and remediated. This can be expensive. They stopped using asbestos in home quiet a few years ago, a builder can pinpoint that year of outlaw for you and you can compare that answer to the year of construction of your home.

CraigFL 09-04-2009 12:46 PM

As a 60 yr old person who has worked with asbestos so many times I can't remember, I can tell you that not everyone has a problem. I worked on old houses and cars before people knew asbestos was a hazard. Now that I know, I wouldn't sniff it intentionally but my belief is that only some people are susceptable to its effects. I personally wouldn't pay the men in white suits >$5000 to clean it up...

Nestor_Kelebay 09-04-2009 05:06 PM

I agree with CraigFL.

The fact is that asbestos is one of the most abundant minerals in the Earth's crust, and we are exposed to it every time we go outdoors.

All of California, parts of North Carolina and area around the Great Lakes are particularily high in asbestos outcrops. Due to natural erosion of those asbestos rocks, asbestos fibers are washed into the rivers and into the great lakes. Right now, anyone living in Duluth, Minnesota swallows 3,000 asbestos fibers with every glass of water they drink. But, so far, there are no known diseases caused by swallowing asbestos fibers, only inhaling them. But, what happens tomorrow is anyone's guess.

And, it's very much worse than you're probably thinking. Did you know that tests conducted in the state parks around San Fransisco showed that the airborne asbestos fiber levels were higher in those parks than the OSHA would allow in a workplace without safety respirators being providedback by the employer? It's true. Back then they used "Serpentine rock" which is common throughout California to make gravel roads through the parks, the the dust created by cars driving on those roads created huge amounts of asbestos fibers. As a result of that discovery, the gravel used to make gravel roads in California was initially limited to 50 percent serpentine rock, then 5 percent, and now 0.05 percent.

Did you know that asbestos is still being used in car brake shoes and pads even today? It's true. Asbestos was banned in brake shoes and pads manufactured in the United States and Canada, but a baby squabble broke out in the US over who had jurisdiction over IMPORTED brake shoes made from asbestos, and that issue still hasn't been resolved. So, brake shoes made from asbestos overseas are still being installed on cars and trucks in North America.

There are many places in North America where asbestos outcroppings come right to the surface, and any construction or excavation on those asbestos outcroppings creates huge amounts of airborne asbestos dust. Only a few years ago the EPA sent investigators to take air quality samples in some of the new housing developments in California. These guys got all dressed up in moon suits and went about doing the natural activities that people did in those areas, like walking dogs, playing frizbee, etc., all the while taking air samples. They were supposed to write a report, but never did. The only thing they did say was that the airborne asbestos fiber content in those samples was "of concern". And, of course, the reason why they don't want to say anything is because how do you tell the mayor of a town that it's dangerous to breathe the air in his town. Or, what do you tell the owner of a $2 million dollar house that the value of his house would drop to zero if people knew the whole subdivision is built on Serpentine rock, and so the airborne asbestos fiber counts on his street requires him to wear a respirator when walking his dog.

But, like CraigFL says, and I agree, not everyone is equally susceptible to asbestos, and so it affects some people more than others. The problem is that we don't understand why, and so the rules are set up presuming everyone is highly susceptible to asbestosis.

If we were all equally susceptible to asbestosis, everyone living near a gravel road in California would be dead by now.

Here's an alarmist web site by a group of doctors that make a lot of money treating people with asbestosis. It's alarmist, I know, but it has a lot of good information.

KatyE 09-07-2009 03:25 PM

Thank You
Well, sanity restored. :o
I wasn't quite sure what to do with the line, "Sounds like the damage has already been done," :eek: but the rest went on to reassure me. I'm not generally alarmist (I've never spent an extra dime on "organic" foods or products), but somehow this old house has got me worried. Between lead dust every time we work on virtually anything in the house, and now asbestos....*sigh*
But it's good to know that it's not quite as dire as I might have thought. Thank you all for the information and advice the way my dad would have given it.

dakuda 09-07-2009 05:16 PM

I ripped up some old tiles in this house that I am now pretty sure had asbestos in them.

I am still living, and it was approx 900+ sq ft of tile.

I am not saying that this is the best approach, but it is what I did.

Nestor_Kelebay 09-07-2009 09:28 PM


If we were all equally susceptible to lung diseases caused by asbestos, we should be seeing a huge increase in the death rate of auto mechanics, especially brake and clutch technicians because automotive brakes and clutches used to be made of asbestos, and automotive brake and clutch technicians would have had the greatest exposure to airborne asbestos dust.

We're just not seeing a pronounced dying off of these people, and that's proof that we're all individuals in every way. Some of us are more susceptible to becoming addicted to certain drugs (like tobacco, caffeine and alcohol) and some of use are more susceptible to the diseases caused by those drugs, like lung cancer and liver disease. It's only when you have a person that's susceptible to something being exposed to that thing more than other people that you get the person having health problems as a result of that exposure. But, take comfort in the fact that NO ONE knows why some of us can smoke all our lives and live to 98 while others die of lung cancer at 47. It's just one of the many things that we don't know. And regardless of what you watch on TV, the sum total of what we know is miniscule compared to what we don't know yet.

For years it was thought that drinking alcohol was unhealthy. And yet good old ethyl alcohol is the ONLY thing that's been found by modern medical science to reduce the risk of heard disease. Excessive drinking is unhealthy, but moderate drinking turns out to be healthier than tea totalling.

Similarily, consuming fat was thought to be unhealthy for us. And yet the people that live around the Mediterannean consume lots of plant fats in the form of olive oil, which is what they use for cooking. Those people there have much lower rates of heart disease than people living in North America where we "watch what we eat". It seems to more we think we know, the more we're just fooling ourselves because we really don't know ENOUGH to draw any conclusions.

It's the same with lead. From 1950 to about 1980 (when 50/50 lead solder was banned for soldering water SUPPLY piping joints) we actually had the largest clinical trial in history happening without our knowing it. During those 30 years, millions of people grew up in older homes with iron water supply piping, and millions of people grew up in newer homes with lead soldered copper water supply piping. And, during those 30 years, NO ONE ever noticed any difference in the general health of people exposed to high lead ion concentrations in their drinking water versus those in older homes with iron water supply pipes. So, if you ask the question: "Do lead solder joints pose a health risk to people?" the answer is obviously "No" because unbeknownst to us, we actually we did that experiment and found out that there was no observable difference in health. But, the bureaucrats of government won't ignore the fact that exposure to lead has been shown to cause improper brain developement in infants, and so they ban lead solder for water supply piping.

The fact is no one really knows why exposure to lead causes brain development problems in infants, but yet lead ions in drinking water due to lead solder joints in copper water supply piping doesn't seem to have caused any problems in infants brought up in those houses. It's just one more thing that we don't know yet.

Put asbestos in the same bag as alcohol and olive oil and lead solder joints. It's a three sided coin and we simply don't know enough yet to say anything about it with certainty.

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