If a homeowner has a house that was built before 1980 or so, she should be very careful before she undertakes any sort of major renovation. What is the danger? The home could possibly contain asbestos. Asbestos is a fiber made out of several minerals and is flexible enough to be woven or spun. Highly flame resistant, it was used in houses to insulate pipes and wires, and was often combined with cement, roofing shingles, wallboard, tiles and resilient flooring. It was also put in paints to make the paint fireproof.
If asbestos is left undisturbed, it’s harmless. But when it’s disturbed, like during a demolition that accompanies an extensive home renovation, its fibers can get into the air and can be breathed in. These fibers can in turn invade the lining of the chest and the lungs, called the pleura, and lead to a rare but deadly cancer called *mesothelioma*. The asbestos fibers actually come into contact with the chromosomes in the cells and damage them. Asbestos also allows foreign DNA and free radicals to injure the cells, and may even suppress a person’s immune system. The symptoms of this form of cancer can take decades to manifest. When symptoms arrive, they usually include pain in the chest, a shortness of breath, fatigue, and a rapid loss of weight that can’t be explained. There might also be fluid around the lungs and the patient may cough up blood or find streaks of blood in his sputum.
If a homeowner believes that there might be asbestos in the house, she should have a professional come and take a sample and send it to a local laboratory to be tested. Then, the homeowner will need to hire an asbestos removal contractor who’s licensed and insured to remove the asbestos. Depending on how extensive the problem is, the household might have to relocate while the removal process is ongoing. In some cases, only the room where the contractor is working will need to be sealed off. In other cases, the asbestos can be enclosed or isolated in a way that keeps people from being exposed to it. Regardless of the severity, is extremely important to take proper precaution when renovating in order to ensure safety.