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Where it is found

Asbestos has been used for hundreds of years for many purposes. It is frequently present in roofing, siding, ceiling and floor tiles, insulation, plumbing, wiring, heating duct work, boilers, fireproofing, ventilation systems, dry wall, dry wall tape and plaster, to name a just a few places where it is commonly found. It is often in crawlspaces or basement floors.

Asbestos fibers can be released into the air in houses and buildings when they are being renovated or torn down. Asbestos that is "friable" can release fibers that become airborne, and potentially create a health hazard. It is friable when it can be crumbled, pulverized or reduced to powder when dry.

What you should not do if you suspect you have asbestos

It is important to avoid doing anything that will loosen asbestos and release the fibers into the air. Never sweep or vacuum asbestos fibers. Never attempt to collect or dispose of asbestos containing material on your own.

What you should do if you suspect asbestos

Contact a licensed asbestos professional to conduct an inspection. If the inspection results find that the asbestos is friable or in a deteriorating state, the property owner must decide whether or not to contact a certified abatement contractor for removal. A further step that can be taken is to have a sample of the material analyzed by a laboratory that specializes in environmental testing, and then to decide from those results whether or not to obtain the services of an abatement contractor.

For further information, go to the Web site of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:

Lead Based Paint

Where it is found

Buildings constructed before 1978 often contain some lead-based paint, which can put the health of occupants at risk --- especially children under 6 years of age. It can be found in all kinds of buildings, including single-family homes, schools, apartments, office buildings, and public housing. It can be on the inside and outside -- even in the soil, as a result of chipped exterior paint. Inside, chipped, peeling or cracked lead-based paint is frequently around the perimeters of windows and doors (where friction occurs), as well as on plumbing and other surfaces. Lead-based paint may even be present on old painted toys and furniture. Dust can be contaminated with lead.

What you should not do, if you suspect lead-based paint

Do not dry scrape, dry sand or burn off lead-based paint, as that can cause lead dust to form. Do not touch peeling, chipped or cracked lead-based paint or lead contaminated dust with your hands and afterwards eat, drink, or smoke without first washing your hands. Do not enter your home without removing your shoes first, if you have been walking where there is lead in the soil or peeling or chipped lead based paint on the ground.

What you should do, if you suspect lead-based paint

If you wish to have your home or place of business tested for lead-based paint, contact a certified lead-based paint inspector or a risk assessor, who will be able to confirm if lead is present. A sample of the paint will be taken and then delivered to a certified environmental testing laboratory for analysis. If it is determined that there is a serious presence of lead (i.e., over or equal to 1.0 milligram per square centimeter, or more than 0.5% by weight) it represents a definite hazard, and that is when a lead abatement contractor should be contacted to remove it.

For further information, go to the website of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: