Home For the injured I Sanded Asbestos, Am I In Trouble?
For the injuredGeneral Injuries

I Sanded Asbestos, Am I In Trouble?

If you’ve sanded asbestos, you may or may not be in trouble. First things first, it’s important to understand how asbestos “works.”

In other words, it’s important to understand at what point does asbestos exposure become dangerous to your health. This is not to say in any way that asbestos exposure isn’t dangerous at all; the degree of exposure is what determines whether you should be concerned.

For starters, keep in mind that no level of asbestos exposure is safe. That said, the dangers of asbestos exposure don’t usually show immediately after exposure. On the contrary, it could take anywhere from 20 to 60 years after exposure for symptoms of mesothelioma to begin to show.

These symptoms usually derive from years of exposure to asbestos, not a single incident. What this means is that if you’ve been exposed to asbestos, the answer to the question of whether or not you’re in trouble will depend on the frequency of exposure.

If you sanded asbestos and only got exposed for the first time during the sanding process and no other time, this exposure might still be dangerous to your health but not as dangerous as that of someone who has been exposed for a long period of time.

⚖️ PRO TIP | No amount of asbestos exposure is considered completely safe. It’s the degree of exposure that will ultimately determine the likelihood of developing health problems such as mesothelioma.

Is Short-Term Exposure to Asbestos Safe?

As mentioned earlier, short-term asbestos exposure is still unsafe. In fact, no amount of exposure is safe. While in most cases, short-term exposure may be considered less dangerous than long-term exposure, it’s worth noting that the level of exposure will also play a role in determining whether you should be concerned about your health.

For perspective, if you sanded asbestos in high concentrations but in a short period, you may be in more trouble than someone who was exposed to low levels of asbestos for a long period.

Is Sanding Asbestos Dangerous?

Now that brings us to the point of how asbestos “works”. Generally, for asbestos to find its way into the human body, it must be “disturbed.”

By this, I mean it must be released from its resting point into the air and then inhaled into the lungs. So, if you sanded asbestos, chances are the sanding process disturbed the asbestos fibers, sending them into the air.

This is more dangerous and for obvious reasons – asbestos fibers roaming freely in the air are more likely to land in your lungs than those undisturbed.

I Sanded Asbestos. What Should I Do?

Understandably, you may be concerned about your health after sanding asbestos. After all, mesothelioma is a deadly type of cancer and has no cure.

Although low levels of asbestos exposure, especially if it’s your first time, may not lead to mesothelioma, your peace of mind should come first. For this reason, it’s always advisable to discuss the exposure with your doctor.

Depending on the unique circumstances of your case, such as your work environment, your doctor may recommend several tests, including X-rays. This is usually common, especially in situations where you are showing signs of asbestos exposure, such as certain respiratory problems.

Again, you shouldn’t panic just because you’ve started showing these signs. Only a professional doctor can tell whether or not there is a connection between your symptoms and you getting in contact with asbestos. Also, as mentioned earlier, these symptoms take years to show, so you won’t begin noticing them a day or two after exposure.

That said, once you’ve discovered that you’ve sanded asbestos, it’s best to contact experts to get rid of it. Do not attempt to remove the asbestos by sanding further. This will only send more fibers into the air and put you or your loved ones at risk.

An experienced asbestos removal service can help remove this material safely. Depending on how contaminated the area is, you may need to evacuate it permanently or temporarily until the asbestos removal process is complete.

Where Is Asbestos Found?

If you’re concerned about sanding asbestos, chances are you work in the construction industry, or you’re someone who loves DIY projects, whether at work, home, or any other environment.

Here’s what you need to know: asbestos can be found anywhere. This is because, back in the day, asbestos was used in almost every building material due to its fire-resistant properties.

You’d find it on pipework, paint, boilers, certain construction equipment, machines, and so on. And despite killing between 12,000 to 15,000 Americans every year, asbestos has – technically – not been banned in the United States. 

However, it’s worth noting that asbestos mining in the United States ended in 2002, but the US government still allows the importation and use of certain products that may contain very low levels of asbestos.

The bottom line is that asbestos is everywhere, and if you work in the construction industry, your risk of exposure to asbestos is significantly higher. 

The following are some of the most common areas asbestos can be found at home:

  • Vinyl floor tiles or vinyl sheet flooring
  • Wall and ceiling patching materials
  • Certain paints (especially those sold or applied before 1978)
  • Certain construction sprays
  • Cement sheets and wood-burning stoves 
  • Certain insulation materials

Because asbestos can be found almost everywhere and in the most random places in the building industry, it’s safe to assume that anything manufactured before 1978 is a high risk. Anything manufactured after that might be safer.

This rule is not written in stone but is a great starting point in trying to figure out what is safe and what is not.

What If I Accidentally Removed Asbestos Popcorn Ceiling?

Unfortunately, popcorn ceilings pose some of the highest risks for asbestos exposure in any commercial or residential building. These ceilings were pretty popular in the late 1950s all the way until around 1980.

 During that time, most popcorn ceilings contained asbestos, but many people didn’t know anything about it until research started showing the risks involved when these popcorn ceilings were disturbed.

Accidentally removing popcorn ceilings means there is a chance that the ceiling’s materials were disturbed. And if they contained asbestos fibers, it’s likely that these fibers were released into the air. 

If you weren’t wearing a proper mask, you may have inhaled some of these fibers. But you shouldn’t be too concerned; low levels of exposure to asbestos won’t harm you.

That said, you shouldn’t continue removing the ceiling if you believe it contains asbestos. This could lead to “disturbance” of the asbestos fibers, putting you or your loved ones at a greater risk of high exposure.

Is My Popcorn Ceiling Safe?

Having a popcorn ceiling, especially one built after 1980, should be safe. Remember, even if the ceiling contains small amounts of asbestos, it’s only when you disturb the asbestos fiber that the risk of exposure increases. So just as long as you are not disturbing the ceiling or any other part of the building you believe may contain asbestos, you should be safe.

Again, suppose you believe that asbestos exists in the popcorn ceiling or any other section of the building. In that case, you should speak with your landlord about it or consult a professional asbestos removal service for further directions. 

Is Asbestos Roof and Siding Dangerous?

Not really. As we’ve learned so far, asbestos may not be that dangerous if left undisturbed. It’s only when you disturb it that the fibers get into the air and find their way into the human body through inhalation.

But that also doesn’t mean having an asbestos-infested roof or siding is safe. If the roof or siding appears damaged, you should contact a professional roofing contractor or asbestos removal expert to examine it and determine the next course of action.

Sometimes, the solution may be something as simple as applying a protective coating over it. Other times, you may need to replace the entire roof or siding. It all depends on the level of contamination.

How Long Can Sanded Asbestos Stay in the Air?

Good question. We’ve talked about how disturbing asbestos fibers is dangerous, but there is no specific timeline for how long these fibers stay in the air. That said, research has shown that it could be anywhere from 48 to 72 hours. After that, the fibers will likely settle until they are disturbed once again.

Can I Sue My Landlord for Asbestos?

This is one question many people ask, especially after finding out that they’ve been exposed to asbestos at their rental properties. The truth is, you may or may not sue your landlord.

Here’s why.

The presence of asbestos alone does not warrant legal action against your landlord. Many buildings, especially those built before 1980, may contain asbestos in different materials, from the ceiling walls, all the way to common home appliances.

The only way you may be able to sue your landlord is if they were negligent in one way or another. For example, if they knew or should have known about the presence of asbestos in the property but failed to disclose it and you were affected in one way or another as a result of the exposure, you may be able to take legal action.

Keep in mind that in every state, landlords have the legal responsibility to ensure that their tenants live in habitable conditions. Part of this responsibility involves ensuring that tenants are not exposed to asbestos. That said, while legal action might be an option, there are times when you might be better off taking a different route, such as withholding rent or moving out.

It all depends on the unique circumstances of your situation.

Another example of a situation where taking legal action might be necessary is if your landlord, upon realizing that the building has asbestos, hired people to remove it but did not take steps to protect you or your loved ones during that process.

For instance, if the removal process went on without the landlord notifying you about it and what you should do to stay away and avoid possible exposure, then the landlord might be liable if you get sick as a result. 

Final Thoughts on Sanded Asbestos

Sand asbestos is dangerous. It releases asbestos fibers into the air, increasing the risk of humans inhaling these dangerous fibers.

Exposure to low amounts of asbestos in a short period of time may not be risky, but exposure to high amounts in a short period might be. Even after exposure, symptoms may take at least 20 years to show (for high exposure) or even up to 50 years (for low exposure).

Avoid disturbing any surface you believe might be contaminated with asbestos. Instead, seek professional help from asbestos removal specialists.

Lastly, you may be able to take legal action if you were exposed to asbestos due to someone’s negligence or dishonesty and suffered health complications as a result of the exposure.

Written by
Serah Waweru

A graduate of Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, Serah Waweru is a personal injury and immigration attorney based in Tacoma, Washington. Her law firm serves clients in Washington and all over the United States. Serah has always been passionate about the law; she served as the Vice President of the Western Michigan University Cooley Law School Student Bar Association and vice president of the university's Black Law Students Association. Attorney Serah Waweru is also a proud member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the Washington State Bar Association.

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