The thought of asbestos in your HVAC system is a frightening one. Do you wonder if you might be at risk? If your home was built before 2004, it’s likely that it has at least some products containing asbestos.
Asbestos is a white, fibrous mineral that was used regularly in many products — from cement and insulation to joint compounds and sealants. Because of its durability, strength, and fireproofing capabilities, asbestos was used extensively in the HVAC industry until its nationwide regulation in 1979.
While the presence of asbestos in your home isn’t necessarily a cause for alarm, knowing whether it’s a risk to your health is. Thankfully, if you have an older home, you can protect yourself from the dangers of asbestos exposure by knowing where asbestos can be found in your HVAC system and what you can do to keep yourself and your family safe.
The Dangers of Asbestos
Asbestos becomes dangerous when it’s disturbed or damaged. The asbestos fibers break down into microscopic shards that pollute your home’s air. Studies show that no level of asbestos exposure is safe, as even low exposure to airborne asbestos particles increases the chances of developing lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.
Unfortunately, knowing whether or not your home’s HVAC system has been contaminated with asbestos can be hard to pinpoint. Partly because airborne asbestos fibers can’t be seen with the naked eye, and also because there are no immediate physical warning signs of asbestos exposure. It can take at least 40 years before you get your first symptoms, which can include:
- Dry persistent cough
- Shortness of breath
- Unusual weight loss
- Chest or abdominal pain
How to Locate Asbestos in Your HVAC System
It’s important to know where asbestos is located in your house because depending on where it is, you may not need to worry about removing it right away. The condition of the asbestos and its use are crucial factors in deciding if you need remediation services. If the asbestos is undamaged and is in a low-traffic area, it may not need to be removed. Deteriorating asbestos, and asbestos in more common areas of the home should be taken care of right away.
As you begin to search for asbestos in your home, remember to check your HVAC system. There are many places asbestos could be hiding in an old HVAC system and common locations include:
- Ductwork connectors
- Heat vents
- Air conditioning units
Asbestos is often found inside and around HVAC systems because manufacturers chose it for its fire-resistant nature. Asbestos tape, for instance, was used to prevent air from escaping through the air duct connectors. However, as time goes by, the tape starts deteriorating and the material becomes airborne — leaving your health at risk.
When you search for signs of asbestos, be mindful of any white, papery material you see around your HVAC system, and be on the watch for popular asbestos-containing materials such as:
- Asbestos paper and duct tape
- Duct wrap and insulation
- Millboard and furnace cement
- Liners and HVAC fabric
When in doubt, always assume that a product contains asbestos until it’s determined otherwise — especially if it was produced or installed before the 1970s.
How To Protect Your Family
If you suspect your HVAC system might contain asbestos, there are a few things you can do to keep your family safe from the risk of exposure and possible disease. The first thing to remember is not to touch or disrupt anything. The only way you can positively identify asbestos is with a lab test. To know whether your home needs asbestos abatement or removal, call a licensed asbestos professional. In the meantime, if you think asbestos has been released into your air at home, do these things:
- Turn off your HVAC system
- Close air ducts and/or vents
- Close off the room to the HVAC system
Once a licensed asbestos professional has decided on the best course of action, you can get your HVAC system back on the right track.
Ask the Charlottesville HVAC Experts
Although Fitch Services doesn’t deal directly with asbestos abatement or removal, a brief maintenance visit from Fitch Services can help you locate asbestos in your HVAC system and help prevent airborne asbestos from contaminating your home.
Charlottesville area residents can call Fitch Services at (434) 296-9980 or use our contact form to schedule a free consultation to talk about what you can do if you suspect your HVAC system has asbestos.