Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Asbestos In and Around our Church

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The roof of our Church is from asbestos

Asbestos, a mineral fiber found in rocks, is strong, flexible, fire- and chemical-resistant, with excellent thermal and electrical insulation qualities. Due to its many desirable characteristics, asbestos was widely used as thermal insulation (beginning in 1920), fire protection, acoustical insulation, decoration on exposed surfaces, and to strengthen household and building products. It also was utilized in friction products such as brake shoes.

Common Uses

Asbestos-containing materials can be found in the following household and building products:

Health Risk

Asbestos causes cancer of the lung and stomach, according to research of persons exposed to asbestos. There is not a level of exposure to asbestos fibers experts label "completely safe."

Some asbestos materials break into smaller fibers that float through the air and are inhaled. You would not be able to see these tiny fibers, and they are so small they pass through the filters of a normal vacuum cleaner and right back into the air. Once inhaled, asbestos fibers can become lodged in tissue.

A health risk exists only when asbestos fibers are released from the material or products. Soft, easily crumbled asbestos-containing materials have the greatest potential for asbestos release and, therefore, have the greatest potential to create a health risk.

Many times asbestos-containing materials are "safe" until they are damaged or disturbed in some way, as when home improvements are made or a home is remodeled.

Identifying Asbestos Products

On January 9, 1986 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its proposal to ban and phase out all new asbestos use in the United States. Immediately banned were asbestos-containing construction materials and asbestos clothing. All remaining products and/or materials made with asbestos fibers are to be phased out over a period of 5 to 10 years. During this phase-out period, all products and/or materials containing asbestos must have warning labels.

Based on the model number and the age of the product, the manufacturer or a product may be able to tell you whether or not a particular product contains asbestos. Plumbers, heating contractors, and building contractors who have frequently worked with asbestos products and materials sometimes can make a reasonable judgment about whether or not a material contains asbestos.

EPA Removal Guidelines

In most cases asbestos-containing materials are best left alone. If the asbestos-containing product and/or material crumbles easily, is loose, flaking, or a powdery, chalk-like substance, removal may be necessary. Under no circumstances should asbestos fibers be dusted, swept, or vacuumed. These actions make fibers airborne where they can easily be inhaled. EPA strongly suggests finding a qualified contractor trained in safe removal procedures to do the job.

According to the EPA publication "Asbestos in the Home," the following precautions are listed for those handling or removing asbestos-containing products and/or materials:

  1. Do not disturb any material you think may contain asbestos unless mandatory. Removal of the material is usually the last alternative.
  2. Seal off the work area from the rest of the residence. Plastic sheeting and duct tape may be used. Take great care not to track asbestos dust into other areas of the residence.
  3. Always wear an approved respirator. Wear protective gloves, hats, and other protective clothing. If possible, dispose of all of this equipment immediately after using it. If you cannot dispose of your clothing, wash it separately from the family wash (call the CPSC hotline number, 1-800-638-CPSC, for more information on respirators).
  4. When working with asbestos-containing materials, wet it with a hand sprayer. The sprayer should provide a fine mist, and the material should be thoroughly dampened but not dripping wet. Wet fibers do not float in the air as readily as dry fibers and will be easier to clean up. The addition of a small amount (about a teaspoon to a quart of water) of a low sudsing dish or laundry detergent will improve the penetration of the water into the material and reduce the amount of water needed.
  5. If you must drill or cut any asbestos-containing material, do outside if possible. Wet the material first (according to instructions in item 4).
  6. If you must remove the material, avoid breaking it into small pieces. While it is easier to remove and handle small pieces, you are more likely to release asbestos fibers. Pipe insulation was usually installed in preformed blocks; remove these in complete pieces.
  7. Place any material you remove and any debris from the work in plastic trash bags and dispose of it in a proper landfill. Call your health department for instructions about how to dispose of this. Take care not to break the bag.
  8. After you finish removing the material, thoroughly clean the area with wet mops, wet rags, or sponges. Repeat the cleaning procedure. Wetting will help to reduce the chance of spreading the fibers. Again, see that no asbestos material is tracked into other areas. If possible, dispose of the mop heads, rags, and sponges in the trash bags with the removed materials. Otherwise, vigorously flush the mop, rag, or sponge in running water in a sink or basin with a drain. Make sure to rinse both the utensil and the basin completely.

If you are going to have work done by a contractor, discuss these guidelines and the other steps to minimize asbestos exposure.


National Safety Council. "The Hazards of Consumer Products Containing Asbestos," January/February 1987.

U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "Asbestos in the Home," U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1985.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances. "Guidelines for Controlling Asbestos-Containing Materials in Buildings," U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. June, 1985

Safe Buildings Alliance. "What You Should Know about Asbestos," Washington, D.C. 1984.

By Dr. Frances C. Graham, Extension Housing Specialist

Missippi State University. Extension Service

Asbestos causes cancer ( Click for more informaion)

Fuheis: June 3. 2001