As we approach the new year, many people start to come up with resolutions or general plans of what they hope to accomplish in the months ahead. For some, this may include some home updates and various do-it-yourself projects to improve the living environment. But anyone deciding to embark on such projects, especially in a home built before 1980, should take the proper precautions to ensure their home improvements don’t ultimately cause more harm than good.
For older homes, toxins like lead and asbestos can be a huge issue and not always so easy to identify. Thousands of homes still contain these dangerous materials today, and absentmindedly whacking a hammer at a wall without proper inspection first can put families and visitors to the home at risk of exposure. Often, children or young adults face the health risks of lead exposure from eating lead paint chips, for instance.
In the past, mesothelioma was always thought of as an old man’s disease because exposure most often occurred on the job. Though that’s still a serious risk, in more recent years, new cases are being increasingly diagnosed in younger generations. This rise in occurrence highlights the importance of asbestos inspections and abatements, but the cost is too high for many Americans to handle on their own.
Mesothelioma in Younger Patients from Exposure at Home
Asbestos was used heavily in the construction of homes, especially from the 1930s to 1970s. At its peak use in 1973, reports show the United States consumed and produced 803,000 tons of asbestos. The mineral was popularly used in various products, including many materials used throughout the construction of homes, buildings and schools. Asbestos was used in everything from the insulation to roofing to tile floors, and many of these old uses remain in these homes and buildings today.
Though asbestos was used for its durability, fire and chemical resistance, it can be easy for materials containing the mineral to be damaged and release fibers into the air, especially during do-it-yourself projects at home. The fibers are invisible to the human eye, making it impossible to really avoid exposure once the fibers have become airborne. Whether inhaled or ingested, like a child picking up a piece of insulation and unknowingly consuming it, the fibers are just as dangerous.
Experts have stated that no amount of exposure is safe, and every type of asbestos is carcinogenic. While millions of workers are exposed to asbestos on the job each year, researchers have seen more instances of mesothelioma in younger adults partially due to exposures at home. Whether they face secondhand exposure from a family member unknowingly working with asbestos or are exposed more directly from home projects gone wrong, mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases are becoming more common in younger patients.
Just last month, a 23-year-old woman from the United Kingdom was diagnosed with mesothelioma from possibly ingesting asbestos at home as a young child. The family is unsure of where any asbestos could have even come from, and weren’t well aware of its dangers or mesothelioma until the unexpected diagnosis. Sadly, more cases like this will likely continue to emerge until the past uses of asbestos are removed. Unlike the United States, the UK has an asbestos ban in place. But their citizens are still in danger from the remaining asbestos in homes, schools, buildings, and more.
The Costs of Lead and Asbestos Abatement
Though both lead and asbestos are dangerous toxins, the average family can get more help in covering the cost of testing for and removing lead than is possible for asbestos removal. Lead abatement and asbestos abatement are rather similar in their expected costs. On average, experts expect a typical inspection for toxic lead in the home to cost anywhere from $200 to around $400. Lead abatement is estimated to cost the average American around $2,000.
Having a professional inspect and analyze areas of the home for asbestos can vary, generally estimated to cost around $550, though can even creep into the thousands depending on the size of the area or home being tested. Asbestos abatement costs also vary a lot depending on how much needs to be removed and the size of the area in the home being worked on. On average, experts estimate a cost of about $1,800, though the cost can easily surpass $4,000.
Despite being a similar cost on average, families are fortunate to have many resources to aid in paying for the inspection or removal of lead. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers grants through their Healthy Homes program to help remove lead from homes with young children. In 2016 alone, the department released a memo saying over $100 million was allocated to cover the costs of lead removal for low income families. Other agencies, like the Centers for Disease Control, also have their own lead or home hazard programs that help families, as well as businesses, manage the costs of lead abatement.
Unfortunately, asbestos abatement doesn’t have similar funding, despite also being a serious home hazard. HUD offers minimal assistance for asbestos removal, but single families aren’t eligible for these grants. Only businesses, nonprofits, schools or government businesses can apply for these loans through HUD. Homeowners will be hardpressed to find other options to help manage the high cost, though some states may offer programs to help cover the cost or offer tax credits to offset the expense.
More Help Needed to Prevent Asbestos Exposure
Considering thousands of buildings, including homes and schools, still contain asbestos today, more needs to be done to ensure that people can afford the cost of its removal. Seeing a several thousand dollar expense can be too much for many families, and cause many to either ignore the problem or attempt to handle it themselves. This will ultimately only bring more suffering from mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases, as anyone living or even visiting these homes could face exposure.
While the Environmental Protection Agency continues to evaluate asbestos and hopefully move toward a ban, the country also needs to consider what the ban may lack. Unless the agency comes up with some method or plan for removing legacy uses, including in private residences, the dangers of asbestos will never truly disappear. Providing more funding for asbestos abatement, like the programs available for lead removal, can help prevent exposures and eliminate the dangers of asbestos.
Photo Credit: Asbestos Abatement by NAVFAC