Go Green Challenge: Don’t Leave Your Health to Luck


photo by Takashi .M

Kent and I interrupt our ‘move across the country’ blogging break to wish everyone a very Happy Saint Patrick’s Day and present you with a go-green challenge.  As you put on your favorite green clothes and trinkets, make this an opportunity to grow more environmentally green as well.  We are going to take a moment to discuss a matter near and dear to our hearts because the luck of the Irish isn’t the only observance in town, 16 – 22 March is National Poison Prevention Week.

Did you know the average American uses about 25 gallons of toxic chemicals per year in their homes?  I didn’t until I read Prosperity Without Pollution, by Joel S. Hirschorn and Kirsten V. Oldenburg.  Most are cleaning products, but there are other harmful substances lurking deeper and often unnoticed in our homes, workplaces, and schools; One of these invisible substances is asbestos.  Most of us are familiar with the fact that asbestos is not a material we want to be around.  Exposure is so high risk that mesothelioma is often referred to as “asbestos cancer”.  Despite this, roughly 30 million pounds of asbestos are still used each year in the United States according to the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.

Asbestos Quick Facts

provided by the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance

  • The number one cause of occupational cancer in the United States is asbestos, even more than 30 years after its use was essentially halted.  View a list of at risk occupations (even hairdressers are on the list).
  • Since asbestos guidelines were issued in 1979, approximately 45,000 Americans have died of asbestos-related diseases, including asbestosis and mesothelioma.
  • 10,000 Americans will die this year of asbestos-related diseases (including lung cancer and mesothelioma cancer) and 200,000 are currently living with asbestosis.
  • Asbestos is still mined in several countries throughout the world, including Canada, and is exported to many industrialized and developing countries.
  • No amount of asbestos exposure is safe; however, the longer and more intense the exposure, the more likely an individual is to develop mesothelioma cancer or another asbestos disease.
  • Exposure to asbestos can also increase the likelihood of other types of lung cancer. Smoking also exacerbates asbestos-related diseases.
  • Asbestos can still be found in myriad homes, schools, and commercial or industrial buildings.
  • Asbestos was once used in more than 3,000 consumer products, including common household items such as toasters and hair dryers, some of which may still be in use.

So, now that you are armed with the facts, here is the go-green challenge.  This week, take the time to educate yourself about asbestos and eliminate your risk of exposure.  As regular Do-It-Yourself project undertakers, Kent and I are making it a priority to learn about the risks of our exposure during these adventures.  We think the first step is to figure out where asbestos is commonly found.

Places Asbestos is Found

courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency

  • Attic and wall insulation produced containing vermiculite
  • Vinyl floor tiles and the backing on vinyl sheet flooring and adhesives
  • Roofing and siding shingles
  • Textured paint and patching compounds used on wall and ceilings
  • Walls and floors around wood-burning stoves protected with asbestos paper, millboard, or cement sheets
  • Hot water and steam pipes coated with asbestos material or covered with an asbestos blanket or tape
  • Oil and coal furnaces and door gaskets with asbestos insulation
  • Heat-resistant fabrics
  • Automobile clutches and brakes

Yikes, we just finished a few major drywall patching projects…I hope there wasn’t asbestos in our compound!  While the United States Environmental Protection Agency regulates asbestos use in products like these, no amount of exposure is safe.  Before you tackle any projects where you might encounter these materials (especially in older homes), be sure to have your home inspected by an asbestos professional.  If there is asbestos present, have an asbestos trained professional handle remodels near the material/removal.  If your inspection is asbestos free, consider keeping it that way.  With many safe asbestos alternative products on the market, there may be little to no reason to accept even a minimal exposure risk.  Consider using one of these green alternatives instead.

Green/Asbestos-Free Alternatives

provided by the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance

  • Non-PBDE (Polybrominated Dephenyl Ethers) Polyurethane Foams – insulation
  • Flour Fillers – crack and crevice fillers
  • Cellulose Fiber – insulation from finely shredded and treated newsprint
  • Thermoset Plastic Flour – insulation
  • Amorphous Silica Fabrics – insulation and protection

So this Saint Patrick’s Day, don’t leave your health to chance!  Remember to go green, use green building materials, and call a professional to help you with any asbestos issues.