About Asbestos

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is the name given to a number of naturally occurring fibrous minerals with high tensile strength, the ability to be woven, and resistance to heat and most chemicals. Because of these properties, asbestos fibers have been used in a wide range of manufactured goods, including roofing shingles, ceiling and floor tiles, paper and cement products, textiles, coatings, and friction products such as automobile clutch, brake and transmission parts. The Toxic Substances Control Act defines asbestos as the asbestiform varieties of: chrysotile (serpentine); crocidolite (riebeckite); amosite (cummingtonite/grunerite); anthophyllite; tremolite; and actinolite.

How might I be exposed to asbestos fibers?

Asbestos can enter the environment from weathered natural mineral deposits and fiber releases arising from manmade asbestos products. Asbestos may be found in products like floor tiles, roof shingles, cement, and automotive brakes. Electrical, plumbing, acoustical, and structural insulation applications are also very common. Asbestos fibers are released into the air when these products are disturbed.

What if I have asbestos in my home?

The best thing to do is to leave asbestos-containing material that is in good condition alone. If unsure whether or not the material contains asbestos, you may consider hiring a professional asbestos inspector to sample and test the material for you. Before you have your house remodeled, you should find out whether asbestos-containing materials are present. If asbestos-containing material is becoming damaged (i.e., unraveling, frayed, breaking apart) you should immediately isolate the area (keep pets and children away from the area) and refrain from disturbing the material (either by touching it or walking on it). You should then immediately contact an asbestos professional for consultation. It is best to receive an assessment from one firm and any needed abatement from another firm to avoid any conflict of interest. In such a scenario as described above, asbestos-containing material does not necessarily need to be removed, but may rather be repaired by an asbestos professional via encapsulation or enclosure. Removal is often unnecessary.

How do asbestos fibers enter and leave the body?

Breathing asbestos-containing air into the lungs is the exposure route of greatest concern. Some of the asbestos fibers reaching the lungs are eliminated in exhaled air and others are coughed from the lungs with mucous. The fibers reaching the deepest air passages of the lungs can produce the greatest damage.
The digestive system can be exposed to asbestos fibers from drinking water and mucous cleared from the lungs. A small number of fibers may penetrate the cells that line the digestive system, but only a few will reach the bloodstream. These fibers will be released in the urine. Asbestos fibers contacting the skin rarely pass through the skin into the body.

What are asbestos health side effects?

Exposure to asbestos increases your risk of developing lung disease. That risk is made worse by smoking. In general, the greater the exposure to asbestos, the greater the chance of developing harmful health effects. Disease symptoms may take several years to develop following exposure. If you are concerned about possible exposure, consult a physician who specializes in lung diseases (pulmonologist).Exposure to airborne friable asbestos may result in a potential health risk because persons breathing the air may breathe in asbestos fibers. Continued exposure can increase the amount of fibers that remain in the lung. Fibers embedded in lung tissue over time may cause serious lung diseases including asbestosis, lung cancer, or mesothelioma. Smoking increases the risk of developing illness from asbestos exposure. Three of the major health effects associated with asbestos exposure include:

Asbestosis — Asbestosis is a serious, progressive, long-term non-cancer disease of the lungs. It is caused by inhaling asbestos fibers that irritate lung tissues and cause the tissues to scar. The scarring makes it hard for oxygen to get into the blood. Symptoms of asbestosis include shortness of breath and a dry, crackling sound in the lungs while inhaling. There is no effective treatment for asbestosis.

Lung Cancer — Lung cancer causes the largest number of deaths related to asbestos exposure. People who work in the mining, milling, manufacturing of asbestos, and those who use asbestos and its products are more likely to develop lung cancer than the general population. The most common symptoms of lung cancer are coughing and a change in breathing. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, persistent chest pains, hoarseness, and anemia.

Mesothelioma — Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that is found in the thin lining (membrane) of the lung, chest, abdomen, and heart and almost all cases are linked to exposure to asbestos. This disease may not show up until many years after asbestos exposure. This is why great efforts are being made to prevent school children from being exposed

Is there a medical test to determine whether I have been exposed to asbestos fibers?

The most common test used to determine if you have been exposed to asbestos is a chest x-ray. The x-ray cannot detect the asbestos fibers themselves, but can detect early signs of lung disease caused by asbestos exposure. Another tool used by physicians, called a pulmonary function test, can also be useful in identifying lung capacity changes. Periodic health examinations by a physician, including a chest x-ray and review of asbestos-based risk factors, can be effective. Asbestos risk factors include levels, frequency, and length of asbestos exposures; period of time since exposures; and smoking history. The combined impact of cigarette smoking and fiber exposures can increase the chances of asbestos-related lung diseases.

I am going to perform a renovation or demolition to my building. Is there anything I should know about asbestos before I begin my project?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) requires that you hire professionals to perform a survey to determine the presence of asbestos in your building before doing a renovation or demolition. BioTerra Solutions can provide you with the proper professional testing and assessments complying with every federal, state and local regulation.

About Mold

What is a mold?

Mold is a fungus. There are tens of thousands of different species of mold. Mold needs moisture, oxygen, and an organic food source (like wood or dust) to grow. Mold grows best in damp, warm, and dark environments. Mold is a normal part of the outdoor environment. There will always be some mold both outside and inside your house

What makes molds grow in my home?

Mold enters your home as tiny spores. The spores need moisture to begin growing, digesting and destroying. Molds can grow on almost any surface, including; wood, ceiling tiles, wallpaper, paints, carpet, sheet rock, and insulation. The mold grows best when there is lots of moisture from a leaky roof, high humidity, or flood. There is no way to get rid of all molds and mold spores from your home. But you can control mold growth by keeping your home dry.

Can mold make me sick?

Yes! Mold causes allergic reactions in many people—eye or skin irritation, wheezing, nasal stuffiness, and/or coughing. Some people are more sensitive to mold than others. Young children, elderly people, people with immune compromised conditions (HIV/AIDS, lupus, etc), and people with severe allergies or asthma should be especially careful to avoid mold. Mold can worsen asthma and allergies. People with obstructive lung disease or other chronic lung problems can develop mold infections in their lungs.

Which kinds of mold are allergenic?

Not all molds are allergenic. As with pollen, certain mold spores are allergenic because they are small enough to float in the air and evade the protective mechanisms of the respiratory system. The most common allergenic, indoor molds include Alternaria, Aspergillus, Chaetomium, Cladosporium, Fusarium, Mucor, Penicillium, and Stachybotrys.

Does mold affect everyone the same way?

No. Some individuals have a genetic makeup that puts them at risk for developing allergies to mold. People who have an allergy to mold, especially if they also have asthma, can become ill from exposure to a small amount of mold. Individuals also seem to be quite different in their response to exposure to the toxic chemicals that some molds release. These differences between individuals contribute to the difficult question of determining safe exposure limits for mold.

What about “toxic black mold”?

Most molds are not toxic. The most common types of indoor molds in this area (aspergillus, penicillium, cladosporium) do not produce toxins. Many molds are black—don’t be scared just because you see black mold in your house! However, there are some species of mold that can produce toxins. There may be a link between these molds and health effects like memory loss and severe illness in infants. However, even though “toxic” molds are not common, living in a home with high levels of any kind of mold is not a good idea. Mold can eventually rot the wood components of the house and make it structurally unsound. Also, mold eats through drywall paper, so if you build on top of mold, you may end up having to replace your drywall in just a few years. Lastly, living around mold is not healthy. Not cleaning the mold in your house means you and your family can get sick.

How can I control the mold growth in my home?

In practical terms, just as you cannot kill every single dust mite in your home, you cannot get rid of every single mold spore, but with environmental control, you can get rid of your allergy symptoms.
Repair any leaks or problems leading to water build-up in your home immediately, and remove all materials that have been damaged by water (this includes wood, wall paper, carpet, etc.). Keep exterior surfaces of your home properly sealed, and avoid piling wood or leaves near your home, as they collect moisture. Scour sinks and tubs at least once a month, and wash out garbage receptacles frequently. Getting rid of indoor plants can also reduce the number of mold spores in the air.

Make sure your home is adequately ventilated. Hidden mold often grows inside HVAC systems. An allergy relief vent filter will trap the mold before it reaches you.

A HEPA air purifier will remove a minimum of 99.97% of all mold spores in your home, and a HEPA filtered vacuum cleaner will suck up microscopic mold spores deep in your carpet so that you can dispose of them.

Monitor the humidity in your home with a hygrometer, or humidity gauge. Keep your home’s humidity between 40 and 50 percent. Most importantly, use a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture from the air and control humidity.

How do I treat my mold allergy?

If you’re allergic to mold, the best method of treatment is to avoid contact with mold spores. Wear an allergy relief mask when working outdoors, and take measures to control mold growth inside your home. You can also talk to your allergist about pharmaceutical and immunotherapy treatment options.

*** This information is limited. Please consult licensed professional.