Throughout the 20th century, Asbestos was frequently used in the production of consumer goods and home construction by builders and homeowners. Its flexibility and heat-resistance made it a popular choice for residential projects. Unfortunately, it’s also toxic to human health.
If you have an older home, built before or around the 1970s or 80s, it’s worth checking your bathroom for asbestos. This is especially important if you’re planning a bathroom remodel, since disturbing asbestos-containing materials can release tiny fibers into the air that are dangerous to breathe.
So does your bathroom contain asbestos? Where should you look, and how do you know if you find it? Stay tuned to find answers to these questions and more.
What is Asbestos?
Most of us know that asbestos isn’t something we want to find in our homes. But until asbestos or the related health risks impact us or someone we know, it’s not something we really think about too much.
Commonly found in rocks and soil, asbestos is a mineral compound composed of flexible fibers that make it resistant to electricity, heat, and corrosion. The material’s durability makes it useful in the construction industry and in the production of other consumer goods. It has been used to make home and commercial insulation, floor tiles, popcorn ceilings, drywall, and siding and shingles.
Asbestos is still used to make consumer products today, although it’s heavily regulated. Legally, asbestos can account for no more than 1% of a product that contains it. That’s because, despite its usefulness, asbestos is toxic to humans.
How dangerous is asbestos?
Fortunately, asbestos doesn’t pose serious health risks as long as it’s left completely undisturbed. However, many asbestos-containing materials are fragile and crumbly, and even the slightest disruption can release tiny particles of hazardous dust into the air. These particles may be hard to see with the naked eye, but they’re easy to breathe into your lungs.
Over time, breathing in these asbestos fibers can lead to unpleasant symptoms and even serious long-term health issues. These include:
- Chronic coughing
- Difficulty breathing
- Lung cancer
Asbestos in Bathrooms
Bathrooms are one of the most likely places to find asbestos in homes. It’s common for materials and fixtures in bathrooms to contain asbestos, especially in older houses.
Here are the areas in your bathroom where you’re most likely to find asbestos:
- Insulation materials
- Cement sheet walls
- Angled mouldings
- Areas around venting
- Ceilings (especially textured or popcorn ceilings)
- In-wall pipes
- Backings of floor tiles
Before you hire a professional contractor or begin a DIY bathroom remodel, it’s important to carefully check your bathroom for asbestos. That’s because, while undisturbed asbestos-containing materials are generally not hazardous in your home, once you start knocking down walls, replacing floor tiles, or installing a new bath or shower, you may be releasing toxic asbestos dust into the air.
What is the likelihood your bathroom has asbestos?
Although asbestos is heavily regulated today, The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that there are 1.2 billion square feet of sprayed- or toweled-on asbestos materials in existence in the U.S. today. These materials have an average asbestos content of 14% — significantly above the 1% limit that exists currently.
Older homes that were built prior to this increased regulation are at greater risk of having high concentrations of asbestos in their construction materials. If your home was built prior to 1970, there’s a much higher probability of asbestos in your bathroom.
Identifying Asbestos in Your Bathroom: Finding & Testing
If you have an older home and/or are planning a bathroom remodel, it’s essential that you inspect your space for asbestos to protect you, your family, and any contractors or home renovators who may be working in your home.
Unfortunately, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to identify asbestos visually or by trying to compare your suspected area to an online example. The only effective and safe way to identify asbestos in your home is to have a sample tested by a professional asbestos testing lab. If you suspect that you’ve discovered asbestos in your bathroom, asbestos tests conducted by accredited labs can give you the peace of mind you need and help you make informed decisions about remediation and asbestos removal.
Professional Lab Testing in Portland, OR
Don’t risk your health. Asbestos-containing materials in your home, when disturbed, can release toxic fibers that are hazardous to your wellbeing. If you think you may have asbestos in your bathroom or other area in your home, it’s worth getting a sample professionally tested, especially if you’re planning any kind of home renovation or remodel.
JSE Labs offers professional asbestos testing and lab services in Portland, OR and the entire PNW region. Our testing and inspection services include sampling, surveys, air testing, and abatement project design by experienced, accredited inspectors. You can choose to collect your own sample or we can send a professional to your home.
Contact us with any questions and to get prompt, reliable results.
Lisa started in the industrial hygiene and environmental industry in 1992 as an asbestos microscopist and began performing building inspections for asbestos, lead paint, and other hazards in 1994.
“This career has been an amazing experience, traveling for work to perform inspections both locally and abroad to locations such as Hawaii and Germany. My real love however is being in the laboratory and assisting our wonderful clients.”