11 Common Items in Your Home That Could Kill You

You may not know it, but a deadly substance may be lurking in some of your old household products and materials. Asbestos is a naturally-occurring fibrous mineral that was once widely used across multiple industries due to its durability, resistance to fire, and its inability to conduct electricity.

These unique characteristics made it a popular building and manufacturing material. The problem is that asbestos also causes malignant mesothelioma – a deadly cancer that attacks the lining of your lungs, abdomen, or heart.

The link between asbestos and mesothelioma wasn’t discovered until after asbestos had gained popularity as a so-called “wonder mineral” in the United States. Once its dangers became known, the usage of asbestos declined, but it can still be found in over 3,000 known products. Additionally, many types of older building and insulation materials that used asbestos in the past can still release the deadly fibers and cause mesothelioma if they are disturbed or destroyed. Below is a list of 11 items that could contain asbestos in your home.

1.) Attic and Floor Insulation

Vermiculite is a pebble-like insulation product used in attics and walls. It is usually gray-brown or silver-gold in color. Over 70 percent of all vermiculite sold in the U.S. from 1919 to 1990 was obtained near a mine that was also a deposit for asbestos. Thus, if you have vermiculite insulation in your home, you should assume that you are at risk for being exposed to asbestos.

2.) Boilers and Water Heaters

There is potentially something scary in your boiler room. Boilers and water heaters are used to heat or steam water. Due to the high temperature component of these devices, asbestos was often used to insulate these items. While the practice of insulating these items with asbestos was banned in the mid-1980s, many homes still contain asbestos-lined boilers and water heaters.

3.) Ceiling Texture

The dreaded popcorn ceiling was a fixture in decorating in the 1970s. The texture was created by spraying a bumpy coating that contained asbestos. The use of asbestos was banned in ceiling products in 1978, but any popcorn ceiling that predates 1978 likely contains asbestos.

4.) Hairdryers

Can you believe it? Hairdryers contained asbestos in the past. Asbestos was used to minimize the risk of fire damage from the intense heat that the hairdryer produced. When in operation, the hairdryer actually blew asbestos into its user’s breathing zone. The truth may scare you: the majority of hairdryers manufactured before 1980 contained asbestos. Thus, if your hairdryer could be considered an “antique” you should replace it immediately.

5.) Electrical Panels

Electrical panels include partitions which separate components from one another in order to prevent a fire. These partitions were made with asbestos due to the fact that it is a highly fire-retardant mineral. While electrical panels are no longer manufactured using asbestos, homes built prior to 1980 could have infected electrical panels.

6.) Furnaces

The door gaskets, insulation, and cement of oil, coal, and wood-burning furnaces may contain asbestos. Converting the furnace over to gas or electricity can break down the insulation and release the asbestos fibers. Thus, such a project should only be performed by an expert.

7.) Pipes

Piping in older homes may be coated in asbestos. Asbestos was used in pipes to both reduce heat-loss and to protect nearby surfaces from hot pipes. The asbestos-tainted product which was used to insulate housing pipes was manufactured until 1972. Thus, any home built after 1972 would not contain asbestos-coated pipes.

8.) Refrigerators

Commercial and older model refrigerators utilized asbestos as an insulator to keep cold air from escaping. While refrigerators no longer use asbestos as an insulator, vintage refrigerators are sometimes sought for retro interior design. If you are interested in an older model refrigerator as a design choice, make sure you check to see if it was insulated with asbestos.

9.) Roofing Shingles and Siding

Though not technically inside the house, asbestos was used to strengthen, insulate, and fireproof both roofing and siding materials. If your roofing and siding are in good condition, these materials may not pose a threat, but if damaged, they need to be repaired very carefully, as to not expose people to the hazardous mineral.

10.) Toasters

There is more to worry about than just burning your toast if you have a vintage toaster. Some older toasters used asbestos to protect from fires. Generally, these toasters used trace amounts of asbestos that did not readily convert to airborne fibers, but you still may want to be cautious with how you dispose of older toaster models to eliminate any risk of exposure.

11.) Vinyl Flooring

Due to its durability, asbestos was added to some vinyl floors as a means to strengthen the product. Asbestos can also be found in the backing and in some adhesives used to hold the flooring in place. If the vinyl floor tiles are altered or damaged, the asbestos fibers can be released.

What Should I Do If I think There Is Something in My House That Contains Asbestos?

Don’t Panic. Remember that in most cases, for the asbestos fibers to do damage, the fibers must be disturbed in some way. Thus, asbestos exposure typically becomes a threat in your house if you undertake some home improvement projects that inadvertently release the asbestos fibers.

If you are taking on a do-it-yourself construction project, consult an asbestos expert who can advise you as to the asbestos exposure risks in your household. If you hired a contractor for your construction job, make sure you choose a licensed professional who has knowledge about asbestos exposure and other potentially dangerous materials that may be hidden in your house. Quite frequently, asbestos experts and contractors will utilize a lab to sample items that may be tainted with asbestos before starting a project. Once the results are back from a qualified lab, then a game plan can be established for safe and effective asbestos removal with the appropriate professionals.

The threat of asbestos in your home could be a serious concern. However, knowing the potential threats of asbestos and taking the appropriate precautions to handle the dangerous items safely can eliminate the risk of turning your “Home Sweet Home” into a mesothelioma breeding ground.

Sokolove Law Team

Contributing Authors

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Last modified: October 4, 2017