Materials containing asbestos are made up of millions of packed or woven microscopic silicate fibers. Inhaling these fibers can lead to mesothelioma (scaring of the lungs) and lung cancer.
It is therefore extremely important to check whether or not there is any chance of asbestos fibers becoming airborne in your home.
Due to its remarkable heat-resistant and insulating properties, asbestos became ubiquitous in US consumer life between the years of 1920 and 1990. Here is a non-exhaustive list of where you may be able to find asbestos in your home if it was constructed or remodeled before the end of this period:
If you find any such materials deteriorating toward the point of producing dust, or plan on doing any renovation work that would involve disturbing suspected materials, you should get samples tested.
Testing for asbestos:
Get a professional to take samples, accidentally releasing asbestos into the air can result in very high costs to your health and the well being of those living with you.
Wear clothing that fully covers you and can be disposed of after the work is completed.
Wear, at the least, a good quality dust mask. We recommend a HEPA (High‐Efficiency Particulate Air) mask.
Close the room off from the rest of your home—note that this includes switching of your AC!
Secure plastic sheeting around the area you’ll be working with tape.
It is important to avoid releasing dust in to your room; wet the area you’ll be working on.
Cut a sample from the material you’re testing. If ½” drywall, take a ½” sample. If you are testing a large area, take multiple samples in different places.
Cover the hole you’ve just made by duct taping over it.
Place your sample in a container that will remain safely closed in the mail. Good quality sandwich bags can work fine.
Dispose of materials that will have collected dust in this process.
Clear the air of asbestos fibers using a HEPA vacuum.
From here on you’re going to want to follow the instructions of your chosen analysis laboratory with regard to labeling etc. You can find those labs accredited by the EPA here.