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Asbestos Hazards


When inhaled, asbestos fibers can cause diseases that target your respiratory system. Although some inhaled fibers are trapped in mucous and expelled by your body, fibers not expelled will accumulate. Not all people exposed to asbestos develop health problems. Even so, there is no safe level.


Asbestos is basically several similar naturally occurring minerals: chrysotile, amosite, and crocidolite. Natural asbestos is commonly found within serpentine rocks in California. All homes built prior to 1978 will probably have asbestos containing materials. In 1989 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a phased ban of asbestos products to be completed by 1996. This was overturned by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1991. Currently, it is legal to manufacture asbestos containing materials.



Items commonly containing asbestos:


  • Vinyl flooring

  • Duct wrapping on heating and air conditioning systems

  • Insulation on hot water pipes and boilers

  • Some roofing shingles and siding

  • Vermiculite attic insulation

  • Ceiling and wall insulation

  • Sheet rock taping compounds and some ceiling materials


Ceilings that have a "cottage cheese" appearance could contain asbestos. Textured walls could also contain asbestos. A key aspect evaluating the risk is if the material is friable or can easily be crushed to a powder by hand pressure. Friable materials have a greater chance to release fibers.


Guidelines given to real estate agents:


  • Asbestos containing materials on the outside of the house such as siding and roofing do not present a real health hazard.

  • Asbestos containing material which is in good condition should be of minimal concern.

  • Material which is friable, containing asbestos should be considered a health hazard.

  • If remodeling plans may disturb asbestos containing materials, evaluate the situation.


For more information, refer to the California Residential Environmental Hazards Booklet. This is provided by every home seller in California as a mandatory disclosure.

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