The House Whisper
Matt Macedo - Friday, October 09, 2009
This is asbestos wrap on a heating/cooling duct found during a Pleasanton home inspection... Throughout most of the 20th century, asbestos (view OSHA fact sheet) was hailed as a 'wonder fiber' that insulates up to intense temperature. Due to its outstanding resistance to heat, its fibrous structure and low cost... Asbestos was manufactured into thousands of products from toasters to heating ducts for 60 years.
In 1977, asbestos was found to cause cancer in workers who breathed its microscopic fibers in mines, shipyards and asbestos plants decades after their exposure. When the EPA discovered this, they restricted the use of asbestos.
With the discovery of asbestos hazards, homeowners began feeling nervous about an invisible menace that may or may not be floating around their home.
It is the breathing of fibers when this material is disturbed, not its presence, which is considered a health risk. When the material is not found in living areas in poor condition... treatment is not usually an emergency and you have time to become informed, obtain estimates, and select an appropriate course of action.
It's when asbestos is exposed and friable (flaking or crumbling)... that it's likely to become airborne. There is a potential hazard with airborne asbestos fibers. This depends heavily on the condition of the material, how often people go into a space where the asbestos wrapped ducts are located, and much air moves through the space.
You're buying a house and the home inspection report comments that the heating/cooling ducts have been wrapped in an asbestos material and that one or more sections of the ductwork have separated.
The general advice about asbestos suspect paper wrap material on heating or cooling ductwork: Contact a licensed HVAC contractor or an asbestos abatement company for further review. You should always obtain proper technical information; and health and safety guidelines before attempting to do anything with this material.
The licensed contractor will recommend a course of action ranging from encapsulation to removal and replacement of the heating and cooling ducts.