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When Was Asbestos Used in Homes? Dangers & FAQs

Detailed photography of roof covering material with asbestos fibres

Asbestos is a very scary and dangerous material that has been widely used in construction products for decades. Asbestos is a very tough material that presents itself as a sinewy fiber that can get into the air and infect people’s lungs.  Asbestos can cause serious illnesses, including mesothelioma. Running into asbestos can be disheartening and expensive. No one wants to have asbestos in their homes. But when was asbestos used? What types of products was asbestos used in?

Asbestos was heavily used between 1930 and 1975. Any homes built during this period are at risk of having asbestos in them. However, asbestos was not completely banned until 1989, and even then, the courts rolled back a lot of the regulations. Homes built between 1975 and 1990 are also at risk of containing asbestos, albeit at a lower rate than older homes.

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The Building Boom (1930 – 1970)

Asbestos was most commonly used during the building boom that swept the United States between 1930 and 1970. Increased prosperity paired with a move from rural communities to suburbs caused the demand for cheap homes to skyrocket. The demand only grew in the years after World War II as surviving soldiers returned home with bonus money and opted to settle down and start families. This caused the number of single-family homes being built in the United States to soar. It was during this period, as builders tried to build as many homes as quickly as possible, that asbestos became a huge problem.

The homes at the highest risk of containing asbestos are single family homes, usually in suburban areas, that were built between 1950 and 1970.

Asbestos shingles
Photo Credit By: NATALLIA-B, Shutterstock

The Asbestos Ban (1989)

During the 1980s, the dangers and risks associated with using asbestos became more widely known. As builders started to understand the effects of asbestos on people, they started moving away from the material to avoid liability down the road. In 1989, the EPA moved to ban all products that contained asbestos to protect homeowners from the material. However, in 1991, much of the ban was rolled back by an appeals court. Despite the rollback, it was at this point that most builders ditched asbestos products altogether. Homes built after 1990 have a much lower risk of containing any asbestos products. By 2000, asbestos had been almost completely eliminated from the market.

Technically, asbestos still is not completely banned in the United States, but it has largely been eliminated from the construction process due to the dangers associated with it.

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Why Is Asbestos Dangerous?

Asbestos manifests as an extremely small fiber. Whenever a product with asbestos is disturbed like during a remodel, the product causes a large amount of these microscopic fibers to get into the air. People then breathe these fibers causing irritation in the lungs. This lung irritation can progress from inflammation to a particular type of cancer called mesothelioma, which can be fatal.

Asbestos is also dangerous because there is no way to tell if your home contains it without having it tested. That means you could go to tear out some drywall or wallpaper and unwittingly run into the dangerous material.

What Was Asbestos Used in for Homes?

Asbestos was used in a variety of different home products, including drywall, tile floors, pipe insulation, and textured paint. Some of the most common places to run into asbestos are old popcorn ceilings, vintage drywall, and old underlayment that sits under your roofing.

Asbestos was widely used because it was cheap, easy to obtain, and strong. Asbestos has many great properties that make it an attractive building material. Unfortunately, it also comes with some serious health risks. Initially, these health risks were not well known or understood, but as time passed, people realized the dangers associated with asbestos.

Asbestos removal signage
Photo Credit By: A Periam Photography, Shutterstock

Should You Check Your Home for Asbestos?

Many homes have already been checked and cleared of asbestos, but not all of them. When houses get sold, they are inspected for asbestos. Any type of serious remodeling job would also include an inspection process that would look for asbestos before and during the job. If your house has not been inspected in many years and was built before 1980, there could be asbestos present.

You should get your house checked for asbestos in the following situations.

  • If you have not bought or sold your home since 1980
  • If you are planning on doing a remodeling job on a home built before 1980
  • If you are planning on selling your house and have not had it inspected previously
  • You have old paint or drywall that has not been disturbed since 1990

There are services and professionals that will come in and inspect your home and provide you with a plan on how to deal with any asbestos threats.

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Asbestos is a dangerous material that has been heavily used in building products for decades. Asbestos was primarily used between 1930 and 1975, but it can be found in homes older or newer than that. Home inspectors check for asbestos during construction and during the sales process, and many homes have been checked and cleared of asbestos by this point, but not all of them. If you suspect you might have asbestos in your home, you should schedule an inspection and make a mitigation and removal plan to remove the problem.

Featured Image Credit: Tunatura, Shutterstock


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