This Old House: The Dangers of Asbestos in Older Homes


Older homes are a beauty. There are, however, some important points to note for current or potential owners of old homes. The most notable being the potential presence of asbestos in the structure of these homes.

dangers of asbestos

If your lovely home was constructed before 1980, it could be classified as an “older home”, but this may not necessarily mean that those constructed thereafter do not have high levels of asbestos.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a foam like substance that closely resembles insulation. While it may take years to affect our health, the severity of prolonged exposure to this substance is quite serious. The long-term effects may include diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma and other cancers.



Asbestosis is a very serious chronic respiratory disease that is non-cancerous. It is caused by the scarring of lung tissue brought about by loose asbestos fibers in the air. Symptoms include a crackling sound from the lungs during inhalation and shortness of breath. Left untreated, it may eventually lead to cardiac failure. Contact your doctor immediately if you are experiencing these symptoms.

Lung Cancer

This is the leading cause of death from prolonged exposure to asbestos. Symptoms include shortness of breath, anemia, coughing, chest pains and other respiratory ailments. Studies have also shown that smokers exposed to asbestos could have as much as 90 times more likelihood of contracting the disease.


This is a form of cancer that is most associated with those who have prolonged exposure to asbestos due the nature of their work – miners and textile workers for example. It is relatively rare but remains a threat to those with continued exposure to asbestos. The disease attacks the lung’s thin membrane, as well those of the abdomen, chest, and heart.

Other Cancers

Prolonged exposure to asbestos may result in other cancers in the body such as mouth or throat cancer. The American Cancer Society provides detailed information on the various cancer threats associated with asbestos.

Where is Asbestos?

Where can asbestos be found in the older homes? Older homes have beautiful, intricate, designs that may, unfortunately, have involved the use of substantial amounts of asbestos.

Asbestos is likely to be found on the ceiling, old floor tiles, sidings and roof shingles. Again, look out for insulation around ducts, boilers, sheeting, fireplaces, pipe cement, and on seams where the joint compound was often used.

While most all homes have these features, not all are at risk of this dangerous substance. So how can you tell whether your home has a dangerous level of asbestos?

How To Test For Asbestos In Your Home

A visual inspection of the structures we mentioned above may not be enough. The best option might be to seek professional help. Two methods, both requiring specialized equipment, are approved for asbestos testing. Both Polarized Light Microscopy and Transmission Electron Microscopy are effective at identifying hidden asbestos in homes.

What To Do for High Asbestos Levels

If tests reveal high levels, repairs, removal, and or replacement of the structures in question will be the solution. This will depend on the advice from your professional.

To learn more about how to keep your family safe, contact Albuquerque’s most trusted HVAC specialists in Anderson Air Corps.