Asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) are materials that contain asbestos fibers. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was commonly used in construction materials due to its resistance to heat, fire, and chemicals. However, prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers can cause serious health problems, including lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.
Common Places ACMs are Found
Insulation. Asbestos was widely used as insulation in buildings, particularly in pipes, boilers, and ductwork.
Ceiling tiles. Asbestos was commonly used in ceiling tiles, particularly in buildings constructed before the 1980s.
Floor tiles. Asbestos was also used in vinyl and asphalt floor tiles, particularly in buildings constructed before the 1980s.
Roofing materials. Asbestos was used in roofing materials such as shingles, felt, and roofing paper.
Cement products. Asbestos was used in cement products such as pipes, wallboard, and siding.
Textured paints and coatings. Asbestos was used in textured paints and coatings to add strength and durability.
Not all older building materials contain asbestos. The only way to determine if a material contains asbestos is to have it tested by a licensed asbestos inspector. If asbestos is found in a building, it should be removed by licensed professionals to prevent exposure to asbestos fibers.
What Buildings Are At-Risk for Containing ACMs?
Many commercial, public, and residential buildings constructed before the 1980s are at risk of containing asbestos-containing materials (ACMs). Some buildings constructed as recently as the early 1990s, however, may also contain ACMs.
ACMs have been commonly found in older buildings including:
Schools. Many schools built before the 1980s may contain ACMs in building materials such as ceiling tiles, floor tiles, and insulation.
Hospitals. Hospitals built before the 1980s may contain ACMs in building materials such as pipes, ductwork, and insulation.
Office buildings. Office buildings constructed before the 1980s may contain ACMs in building materials such as ceiling tiles, floor tiles, and insulation.
Public buildings. Public buildings such as libraries, museums, and government buildings constructed before the 1980s may contain ACMs in building materials such as pipes, ductwork, and insulation.
Residential buildings. Many residential buildings built before the 1980s may contain ACMs in building materials such as floor tiles, roofing materials, and insulation.
What are the Dangers of ACMs?
Asbestos-containing materials pose a significant health risk to anyone who is exposed to asbestos fibers. The dangers of asbestos exposure can lead to serious and even life-threatening health problems. Here are some of the most significant dangers of ACMs:
Breathing in asbestos fibers can cause a range of respiratory problems, including coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Long-term exposure to asbestos can also cause more serious respiratory issues such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.
Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer that primarily affects the lining of the lungs, but can also affect other organs such as the heart and abdomen. Exposure to asbestos is the leading cause of mesothelioma, and it can take decades for symptoms to appear.
Exposure to asbestos can increase the risk of developing lung cancer, particularly in individuals who smoke.
Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease that occurs when asbestos fibers are inhaled and become trapped in the lungs. Over time, this can lead to scarring and stiffening of the lung tissue, making it difficult to breathe.
Exposure to asbestos has also been linked to other types of cancer, including gastrointestinal cancer and ovarian cancer.
It’s important to note that the dangers of ACMs depend on the level and duration of exposure to asbestos fibers. However, any exposure to asbestos fibers should be taken seriously, as even small amounts of exposure can lead to serious health problems. If you suspect that your home or workplace contains ACMs, it’s important to have it tested by a licensed asbestos inspector.
Illinois Environmental Contractors Association Resources
For more information on finding a local contractor to assist with asbestos, lead and other regulated substance information, remediation, or removal, or if you have general questions regarding environmental regulations, check the resources below: