If your home was built before 1979, it might contain asbestos around furnaces, pipes, heat ducts, and boilers; in the adhesive and backing beneath your linoleum floor; and in "cottage-cheese" ceilings.
Ignorance can be bliss. Or at least it used to be.
Today homeowners who are selling or leasing a dwelling built before 1978 must inform prospective buyers or tenants about known or potential asbestos and other hazards in the building.
The information below can help you decide what's best for your home and family when it comes to dealing with - or not - the asbestos in your home. Asbestos awareness is the first step.
There are stringent national standards for asbestos inspection in schools.
School boards across the country have spent millions eliminating it from classrooms. Asbestos awareness at home is just as important.
As a result of this attention, many homeowners are understandably concerned about what to do with asbestos used as insulation around furnaces, steam pipes, heat ducts, fuse boxes and boilers, and the backing beneath your linoleum floor.
Asbestos exposure has been associated with lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma.
But these diseases usually afflict people whose asbestos exposure to asbestos dust is in higher quantities than a person would face exposed to asbestos in a home setting.
Experts rate the effects of asbestos as a small risk for homeowners - if left alone. Let this sleeping dog lie.
After all, it's not going to jump out and bite you. And unless it's in crumbling condition, it's not that big a problem. If it stays in place, it won't harm you.
It's not necessary to rip it out. Instead, have asbestos awareness (you know it's there and monitor the areas of your home that have asbestos in it) and keep an eye on its condition.
If it begins to crumble or flake, it's time to consider taking action.
However, materials installed after 1978 aren't necessarily free of asbestos, as contractors with inventories of asbestos-containing products were still free to install them.
At one time, asbestos was mixed with acoustical material and sprayed onto ceilings as a cottage-cheese-like coating.
The ceiling finishes sprayed on between 1945 and the late 1970s contained asbestos in a particularly fragile matrix.
This matrix can be easily disturbed while cleaning, hanging a plant, when people walk on the floor above or when the ceiling is exposed to moisture from a leak.
As long as the asbestos remains intact and undisturbed, experts consider living with it quite safe. Asbestos awareness is key.
If it's crumbling or otherwise in poor condition, hire a licensed contractor experienced in asbestos removal to seal it, repair it, or get it out of your home.
If you're uncertain whether the materials in your home contain asbestos, the most inexpensive way to find out is to have a lab test them. The cost is usually less than $100 per sample.
As long as your mindset remains on asbestos awareness, don't pull the trigger on expensive, potentially dangerous repairs unless there is a genuine threat to your family.