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Recently we did some remodeling in the house, which is built around 50's. Never crossed our mind to get the house tested for asbestos. So we decided to do so in the middle of renovation. If the result come back positive, what should we do with items inside the house like clothes, furnitures, carpets that most probably be contaminated from dust containing asbestos? Do i have to get rid of everything?

2 Answers 2

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Understand the asbestos "threat".

First, the feeling of alarm actually comes from the constant pounding of advertisements - from lawyers looking for easy work tapping several trust funds that were set up for victims. Roundup doesn't have a trust fund; that's why you aren't scared of Roundup.

Asbestos isn't acutely dangerous - that's why it was such a beloved material. Science showed a pattern of cancers emerging in retired asbestos workers. Workers would be mining or manufacturing asbestos items, or installing the fluffy insulating material (similer to pink fiberglass or rockwool) 8-10 hours a day, 5 days a week for twenty years in dust so thick you can't see the other end of the factory hall. No masks worn anywhere.

The human immune system is very good at detecting mutated cells; how that works exactly is an interesting story. That's why limited radiation exposure is acceptable to humans, and nuclear facilities have daily and annual exposure limits: have an accident and hit your annual, and your next year will be pushing papers at the downtown office. That's why an asbestos exposure is insignificant to people who don't handle it every day for 20 years.

Understand the real threat, though

Speaking of radiation limits, the Soviets attempted a similar "send you home when you hit exposure limits" method in the Chornobyl cleanup. The results are highly politicized and full of vranyo, but the most careful research seems to show it largely worked - the cohort of liquidators don't show increased cancer rates over the general population. However, they saw something else: high levels of somatization and post-traumatic stress disorder from being told all the gloom-and-doom.

So for a momentary exposure to asbestos, the health risks are nil... but the mental well-being risks are the real threat. Keep those contained.

For the cleanup, just vacuum up with a HEPA filter; wear a dust mask. Do this several days in a row... and then... don't worry about it.

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  • 3
    Great answer. UV from me. May 27, 2023 at 23:16
  • Thank you for the peace of mind--in hindsight I probably dealt with asbestos at one point before the danger made the news. May 28, 2023 at 20:58
  • I would also use a plastic sheet taped over a convenient doorway to keep dust down in the rest of the house by isolating the work area, and wet-wash/mop every hard surface where possible. Consider using a spray-insulation to help entrap fibres (where insulation is useful) Also, disposal of contaminated items has to be done according to local codes.
    – Criggie
    May 29, 2023 at 3:30
  • There may be no immediate threat to health, but there may be issues with the law. In Hong Kong for instance, it is required to report renovation of buildings with asbestos to the authorities, so they can verify that you've done the proper precautions. Check if there are any such regulations for your location.
    – KC Wong
    May 29, 2023 at 8:42
  • A source would be very reassuring also please
    – Xen2050
    May 29, 2023 at 23:55
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Asbestos usually needs long term(years) working with it(miners, installers) exposure to have effects.

Asbestos is usually safe to live with. You do not bother it, it does not bother you. Only after you bother it, do health concerns start being raised.

Most stuff a very good vacuuming/cleaning should be enough, maybe rent industrial strength vacuum if concerned.

The type of the asbestos removal makes a difference also, sanding the asbestos off(not good) to removing in chunks/pieces(better).

If you did not use a mask when removing the asbestos or any work of that type, then mentioning it to your doctor next time you see them would not hurt. The doctor might make a note of it in your records.

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  • Would anything good result from such a medical note, or would it just be a cause for insurance people to deny later claims on lung problems?
    – jpa
    May 28, 2023 at 15:48
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    @jpa Keep forgetting some people have to live with American health insurance.
    – crip659
    May 28, 2023 at 15:56
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    I'm actually in EU, but it's not an unknown problem here either. Medical records are not always beneficial for the individual.
    – jpa
    May 28, 2023 at 16:28

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