Asbestos in Old Furnaces Poses Health Risk

by Sokolove Law

There might be a hidden danger lurking in furnaces across North America: asbestos.

This former “miracle mineral” offered high tensile strength, and heat and flame resistance. Asbestos was used in literally thousands of products — although it caused many illnesses and cancers, including mesothelioma. Naturally, asbestos also found its way into domestic furnaces before it was phased out of use.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, there are numerous places in and around furnaces that could potentially contain asbestos. These include door gaskets, duct insulation, and the tape at furnace duct connections. Generally, the asbestos-containing material is gray or white, and often resembles plaster.

After decades pass, gaskets can tend to crumble. This presents a health risk to anyone with an asbestos-containing furnace. When disturbed, asbestos releases fibers into the air, where they are easily inhaled.

This is the scenario Keith Tremblett is concerned about in his own home. Tremblett, of Nova Scotia, Canada, became alarmed when he discovered a deteriorated asbestos gasket on his furnace. “These furnaces are still in use, and when this [asbestos] breaks down this is going to be circulated throughout the house,” Tremblett told Canada’s CBC News.

There’s no way to know exactly how many asbestos-containing furnaces are still in operation. So, it is best to play it safe if one is older than 20 years. According to a furnace repair expert, homeowners should have a qualified person inspect their older furnace for asbestos. “If they think that yes, you could have asbestos products, they should be able to tell you that. They should be able to minimize the risk factors by making sure it’s in good condition and letting you know,” she said.

Knowing if asbestos lurks in your basement is especially pertinent if you are remodeling. (According to this story in the Boston Globe, a revitalized economy and housing market is leading to a rebound in major home renovations.)

According to the National Cancer Institute, there is no known safe level of asbestos exposure, and even small exposures could potentially cause health problems. If you or a loved one was developed an asbestos cancer, you may be eligible for financial compensation. Call Sokolove Law today for a free case evaluation.

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