Asbestos in Roofing Shingles

The production of asbestos shingles in the United States began in the early 1900s. Both lighter and cheaper than clay shingles, they were easily installed, and because they came in different colors, were very popular. Despite the fact that the adverse health effects resulting from asbestos exposure were beginning to come to light, products made using the substance were popular, and business was booming.

Identifying Asbestos in Shingles

Shingles manufactured using asbestos came in a variety of styles and colors, making visual identification extremely difficult. To remove any doubt, the best way to find out whether or not your shingles contain asbestos is to have them tested, using either a test kit purchased online or at a local hardware store, or by hiring a professional to test them for you.

Health Risks of Asbestos in Shingles

Asbestos has been used in a wide variety of building materials, and in many instances, it poses no danger to those around it. Asbestos comes in two forms: friable and non-friable. Friable asbestos can easily crumble into a fine powder, while non-friable asbestos cannot. If asbestos is undamaged and left undisturbed, it generally won’t cause any problems. Unfortunately, this is not always the case with asbestos shingles. Because they’re exposed to the elements, they have a much higher chance of being damaged and spreading asbestos dust in the immediate vicinity.

When asbestos dust is inhaled, it can become lodged in the lining of the lungs. If enough asbestos is inhaled over a long enough time, it can lead to the development of mesothelioma, a rare cancer that forms in the lungs, heart, or abdomen. While it typically takes years for mesothelioma to manifest itself, even short-term exposure can have adverse health effects. Asbestosis, which forms much faster, is a disease also caused by asbestos exposure, and can cause scarring of the lung tissue, as well as shortness of breath.

How to Remove and Dispose of Asbestos

When removing asbestos-containing materials, the primary objective should be containment. These products only become dangerous when they’re damaged, allowing asbestos dust to spread into the air, and there are steps one can take to make sure this doesn’t happen.

Before removing any asbestos materials, however, remember that it’s important to protect yourself. Wear overalls or pants, gloves, goggles, and a long-sleeve shirt. Wear a respirator to avoid breathing in any asbestos particles floating in the air.

Shingles can be removed from a roof in one of three ways. The nails holding them in place can be removed, they can be ripped free, or they can be cut free with a knife. Ripping or cutting the shingles free can increase the chances of asbestos dust spreading through the air. Because of this, the preferable method, by far, is to remove the nails first, and then remove the individual shingles. Once this has been completed, it’s important to have someone on hand who can take the shingles and place them on the ground. Preferably on a piece of plastic sheeting, which will make clean-up much easier. Throwing shingles off the roof increases the chance they will be damaged, which again can lead to more dust spreading.

Once all of the shingles have been removed and placed safely on the ground, they must be disposed of. Asbestos disposal bags can be purchased at any hardware store. These bags are marked to show that asbestos is contained within.

Disposing of asbestos isn’t as simple as disposing of other refuse. There are city and state regulations that must be followed. In almost every case, these state that asbestos cannot be disposed of with regular waste. Approved disposal sites can be found online, or by contacting your local EPA office.

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