Exposure to asbestos has no limitations. It can happen nearly anywhere, mostly due to asbestos being used everywhere for decades.
Even your home — yes, your home — may be filled with this lethal substance. A task as simple as cleaning your roof shingles might seem safe. However, it could put you, your family and your neighbors in danger.
A recurrent column in a New York newspaper tackled the topic of power-washing asbestos roof shingles. The subject emerged from a reader question, and architect Monte Leeper offered his warning-filled advice.
“The condition you described is unsafe,” Leeper explained. “Asbestos shingles should not be power-washed.”
There are many other aspects of this topic to discuss. Power-washing roof shingles is one of the more common home-renovation projects that can expose people to asbestos. Since asbestos causes mesothelioma, homeowners should consider the health concerns before hiring a company or performing the task themselves.
Using Asbestos on Roof Shingles: Why It Happened
Asbestos ruled American industrialism and commercialism in the 20th century. It’s fire-resistance, durability and cheapness explain why so many companies applied it to roof shingles, wallboards, tiles, joint compounds, insulation, electrical wiring and more home components. It’s why construction work and mesothelioma are connected.
Asbestos roof shingles could prevent fires from starting, or spreading from a neighboring home or building. According to The Spruce website, American manufacturers of roofing material (like Johns-Mansville) offered at least one roofing shingle product that included asbestos cement. By the 1930s, asbestos was a staple of the roofing industry.
The rise of asbestos continued through the middle of the 20th century, when workers-rights activists and health experts began taking strong stances against asbestos. Research began showing the correlation between it and mesothelioma — among other diseases. The challenge was getting corporations to value their workers’ health, customers, and the general American public.
Getting companies to change their business practices was the most significant obstacle in phasing out asbestos. The substance remained a feature of new homes into the 1970s and 1980s, when public and medical outcry for alternatives finally defeated greedy corporate America’s apathy for protecting people from health hazards.
What You Shouldn’t Do About Your Asbestos Roof Shingles
The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission says you should leave asbestos materials in good condition alone. Asbestos is dangerous when disturbed, meaning when the substance breaks from the material and floats in the air. Inhaling loose fibers is the first step in someone developing mesothelioma.
What are the ways you can disturb asbestos in roof shingles? Well, power-washing is surely one. You should avoid this method of cleaning your home’s shingles.
“It may seem harmless to spray something with water,” Leeper wrote, “but at high pressure it’s like hitting the surface with bullet force.”
That bullet force can disrupt asbestos roof shingles by damaging the material. While the substance may resurface as shingles dry out, it’s a moot point. Any exposure, for any amount of time, is dangerous.
What You Can Do About Asbestos Roof Shingles
Leeper explained that asbestos shingles must be cleaned “with a soft-bristle brush” similar to a car-cleaning brush. You can also use detergent, like dishwashing liquid, with the brush.
Leeper called this method “the safest way” to clean shingles. The dirt comes off but asbestos fibers have a significantly lower risk of being disturbed.
You should contact a testing company to take air samples inside and outside your home. We advise you do so before and after hiring someone to remove asbestos safely from your roof.
Frequently Asked Questions About Power-Washing Asbestos Roof Shingles
When did asbestos stop being used in houses?Asbestos was banned from being used in new construction materials in the late 1970s, but it is still present in many older homes built before then. It is important for anyone working on or living in an older home to take precautions to avoid asbestos exposure.
When did they stop making asbestos shingles?Asbestos shingles were commonly used in construction until the 1980s when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued regulations to reduce the use of asbestos-containing materials. However, some companies continued to manufacture asbestos shingles until the early 2000s.
When did they stop using asbestos in building materials?The EPA made an attempt to prohibit the majority of asbestos-containing products in 1989 through the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). However, in 1991, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned most of the original ban on manufacturing, importing, processing, or distributing these products covered in the 1989 rule. Consequently, the 1989 asbestos regulation only prohibits five specific product types and forbids the introduction of new asbestos uses in products that were initiated after 1989. This means that the manufacturing of products containing asbestos that were not introduced before 1989 required special approval from the EPA to be produced.
When was asbestos siding banned?Asbestos is not completely banned in the United States, but it was heavily regulated starting in the 1970s due to the health risks associated with asbestos exposure. However, some states have enacted their own bans on the use of asbestos-containing materials.
When was asbestos siding used?Asbestos siding was commonly used in the United States from the 1920s to the 1970s. However, production of asbestos-containing siding ceased in the 1980s due to health concerns.
Do you have to disclose asbestos when selling a house?Yes, in most states, sellers are required by law to disclose the presence of asbestos in their homes to potential buyers. This is because asbestos poses a serious health risk and can be costly to remove. It is important to disclose any known asbestos-containing materials in your home to protect yourself and potential buyers.
What are asbestos shingles?Asbestos shingles are roofing shingles that contain asbestos fibers. They were commonly used for roofing and siding in the past, but were later found to be a health hazard due to the inhalation of asbestos fibers which can lead to mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.
What does asbestos siding look like?Asbestos siding typically looks like flat, rectangular sheets that are gray or white in color with a texture similar to cement. It may also have a slightly shiny surface. However, it is important to note that asbestos siding is no longer used due to the health risks associated with asbestos exposure.
What do asbestos shingles look like?Asbestos shingles typically have a corrugated appearance and may be gray or brown in color. They are also known to have a fibrous texture. It's important to note that asbestos shingles have been phased out in the US due to the health hazards associated with asbestos exposure. However, older houses with roofing shingles installed before the 1990s could still contain asbestos.
What insurance companies will cover asbestos siding?It is difficult to say which insurance companies will cover asbestos siding as policies and coverage vary. It is recommended to check with your specific insurance provider and review your policy to see what is covered. It is important to note that many insurance companies may not cover the removal of asbestos siding due to the associated health risks.
How to tell if you have asbestos shingles?Asbestos shingles were commonly used in roofing materials before the 1980s. To determine if your shingles contain asbestos, you can have a sample tested by a professional asbestos testing company. It is important to not attempt to remove or disturb the shingles yourself as this can release dangerous asbestos fibers into the air. If you suspect your home may have asbestos-containing materials, it is best to consult with an asbestos removal professional.
How to clean up asbestos dust?Cleaning up asbestos dust is not recommended as it can be very dangerous. It is recommended to contact a professional asbestos abatement company who is trained and equipped to safely remove asbestos materials. If you suspect that your home or workplace has asbestos-containing materials, it is important to have them inspected and tested by a professional. Do not attempt to clean up asbestos dust yourself.
How much does it cost to remove asbestos siding?The cost of removing asbestos siding can vary depending on the size of the area and the extent of the contamination. On average, it can cost anywhere from $10 to $25 per square foot. It is important to hire a certified and experienced asbestos removal professional to ensure safe and proper removal.
How to remove asbestos siding?It is strongly recommended that you hire professionals to remove asbestos siding as it can be dangerous to handle without proper equipment and training. Removing asbestos siding can release asbestos fibers into the air, which can cause serious health problems if inhaled. Contact a licensed and certified asbestos abatement contractor for safe and proper removal.
How long does asbestos siding last?Asbestos siding can last up to 50 years or more, but it is important to note that the material can become brittle and deteriorate with age, which can release asbestos fibers into the air. It is recommended to hire a professional to remove and dispose of asbestos siding safely.
How do i clean my house after asbestos exposure?If you suspect that your house has asbestos, it's best to hire a professional asbestos removal company who will be able to safely and thoroughly remove the asbestos. Attempting to clean it yourself can be dangerous as asbestos fibers can easily become airborne and inhaled.
How much does it cost to remove asbestos pipe insulation?The cost to remove asbestos pipe insulation can vary depending on factors such as the amount of insulation, accessibility, and location. It is best to contact a licensed asbestos removal specialist for a quote. However, it is important to note that removing asbestos should only be done by professionals due to the health risks involved.
How to safely remove asbestos tile?It is recommended to hire a professional asbestos removal company to safely remove asbestos tiles. Asbestos fibers can be dangerous if inhaled, so it is important to avoid any unnecessary exposure. Attempting to remove asbestos tiles on your own may release fibers into the air, which can cause serious health risks.
Sources & Author
- The Rise and Fall of Asbestos Shingles. The Spruce. Retrieved from: https://www.thespruce.com/rise-and-fall-of-asbestos-shingles-2902132. Accessed: 08/20/2020.
- Power-washing asbestos shingles. LI Herald. Retrieved from: https://www.liherald.com/stories/power-washing-asbestos-shingles,127197. Accessed: 08/20/2020.
- Asbestos In The Home. United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. Retrieved from: https://www.cpsc.gov/safety-education/safety-guides/home/asbestos-home. Accessed: 08/20/2020.
Sources & Author