For many years, asbestos in plaster was normal and accepted. In fact trendy, decorative plaster materials contained asbestos between the 1940’s and 1980’s until its deadly effects became better known and was banned by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This type of decorative plaster was most often used in popcorn and stucco ceilings that were at peak popularity between the 60’s and 70’s.
In the past, asbestos fibers were frequently added to plaster mix. These fibers were added to improve the flame retardant properties of the material, as asbestos is extremely heat-resistant. Most often, the asbestos used was a type known as white chrysotile.
The use of plaster to add fire-resistance to walls and other surfaces was widespread. Plaster acts as a flame retardant by releasing water vapor when exposed to flame. It is also an excellent heat insulator, preventing the transfer of heat to inner surfaces
How to determine if your plaster contains asbestos
How can you tell if the plaster contains asbestos in your home? Here are a few questions to keep in mind:
- How old is your home? If your home was built between 1940 and 1980, the plaster is more likely to contain asbestos.
- What is the texture of the plaster? Plaster more likely to contain asbestos will probably have a puffy, popcorn texture and appearance.
- What is the style of your home? Art deco styles popular in the past are more likely to contain asbestos in plaster.
How to Deal with Asbestos in Plaster
Keep in mind plaster that is undamaged and in good condition isn’t as likely to pose any hazardous health threat. The danger lies in the disturbance of asbestos fibers that occurs with damaged, worn plaster.
If you think your home contains asbestos in the plaster, get a professional opinion from a certified asbestos professional. Don’t touch or take samples of the plaster on your own if you think it contains asbestos, as this may release particles into the air to be inhaled. Professionals certified in the handling and disposal of asbestos are better suited to take care of the asbestos in plaster in a safe way.
Hazards Associated with Asbestos in Plaster Products
Although the deliberate use of asbestos in plaster has been banned since the 1980’s, the use of asbestos-containing vermiculite continued for many years. Unfortunately, this type of plaster remains in many older structures, and continues to pose a health threat to building renovators and demolition workers. When intact, the plaster poses relatively little risk of asbestos exposure because the asbestos fibers are held in place by the surrounding material. When the plaster becomes worn, abraded, or scratched, however, the individual fibers can enter the atmosphere and be inhaled. Inhaled asbestos is the primary cause of asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma.
NESHAP- National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants and AHERA- Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act Program are the governing agencies, along with the EPA and OSHA who are responsible for the guidelines, rules and regulations regarding asbestos.
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