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Two years ago a builder was working on our Victorian house and removed a approx. 1 ft x 2ft6 panel, then realised it might be asbestos. He said he got rid of it safely, and didn't damage it, and that everything was fine and we didn't think much more of it. After seeing recent campaigns about asbestos we are now really worried about this incident.

The house was still rather dusty when we moved back in from all the building work (extension etc). The floor under the carpets was only quickly swept, so would still be dusty underneath.

Have we been living in asbestos dust for years?

How serious is this?

What, if anything, can we do now?

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    If it was one small panel two years ago, and it was disposed of (whether properly or not), then the danger to you now is virtually nil. Asbestos is bad stuff, but generally only if you're exposed to it regularly, in substantial amounts, over a long period of time. The amount of asbestos dust that may have come off the panel is minuscule, and the amount that could have remained after even a cursory cleaning smaller still. The fact that the contractor mentioned it to you at all suggests that it was handled properly. – Hot Licks Oct 29 '14 at 0:55
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Asbestos in building materials is generally only a concern where the material is friable i.e. brittle and crumbly. You haven't said, but if the "panel" was removed as a unit, then almost certainly very little asbestos was released. If, on the other hand, the panel were pulverized and destroyed to the point where a lot of dust was created, that may be cause for more concern.

But, there is little you can do about it now. Also, in my opinion, there is very little to be worried about. I believe much of the fear over asbestos has much more to do with fear over litigation and large damages awards than it does over actual danger. The fact is, people who contract mesothelioma are generally those who had continuous exposure to high concentrations of asbestos fibers over many years. Just as inhaling a bit of coal dust is not likely to give you black lung, the odd asbestos fiber here and there is not likely to kill you.

Any fibers under the carpet (and carpet pad I assume) are effectively encapsulated and unlikely to move through the pad and carpet into the atmosphere. Fiber concentration in the air will decrease over time with air changes and with settling out. After 2 years, I would be surprised if you had any measurable asbestos fibers in the air.

Lastly, you said that the panel "might" contain asbestos. If you don't know and cannot test it or another piece of the same panel, then you will never know if there is asbestos and you should not, in my opinion, live in fear. If you can have the piece tested and it does contain asbestos, bear in mind that in some jurisdictions you will have to disclose that fact on sale of the home.

EDIT: Humorous (and likely accurate) answer from prior similar question: "You are far more likely to die from worrying about asbestos than from asbestos." That answer here:

How can I seal the edges of a linoleum floor that possibly contains asbestos?

Helpful link to a Reader's Digest article also from that answer: http://fumento.com/asbestos/asbest.html

  • The panel came out in one piece, but I wasn't there and it must clearly have been held in by some screws or nails or something. Thank you for the reassurance. – Corone Oct 28 '14 at 20:49
  • I would like to see if anyone has contracted anything from asbestos tiles in their home. Not saying this isn't something to be careful with but as soon as we care we go overboard. But good answer. – DMoore Oct 28 '14 at 21:24
  • For peace of mind, you could have the carpets professionally cleaned and HEPA vacuumed. However, this is really not necessary, but at least you will have really clean carpets! – Jason Hutchinson Oct 29 '14 at 13:13

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