For many Atlanta families, decorating for the holidays is the highlight of the season. It brings forth the joy of celebrations past, present, and future. As homeowners unpack shiny baubles, heirloom ornaments, and kids’ homemade holiday decor, they think about last year’s gifts, lifelong family traditions, and the joy that comes with each new holiday season. But there’s a hidden danger in decorating for the holidays, one that has nothing to do with rickety ladders and too many holiday lights: asbestos exposure. Before tromping up to the attic to unpack boxes of holiday memories, make sure you’re practicing proper asbestos safety.
Do the Holidays Increase Your Risk of Asbestos Exposure?
A Quick Refresher: What Is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a fire-retardant material used in many homes before the late 1970s. It was popular for its durability and affordability, which led to its use in a wide variety of building materials, including insulation, home siding, tiles, and cement. Although it poses no danger when intact, disrupted asbestos particles can lodge in the lungs, leading to a variety of health complications including mesothelioma and lung cancer. The EPA outlawed the use of asbestos-containing materials in 1978, but many older homes still contain asbestos.
Asbestos Materials in Holiday Decorations
For a material that, according to the EPA, has “no safe level of exposure,” it took people a long time to catch onto the dangers. Asbestos wasn’t only used in home construction; it also found its way into many everyday products, including seasonal decorations. In fact, chrysotile asbestos fibers were used as fake snow in the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s to reduce the risk of holiday fires. Chances are you haven’t kept boxes of fake snow from your great aunt Gertrude’s attic, but asbestos fibers may be lurking in vintage Christmas ornaments, “snow dusted” artificial greenery, or holiday decorations purchased more recently in countries that don’t have the same asbestos regulations as we have in the US.
The Asbestos Risks of Attic Insulation
If you’re like most Americans, you have a “Christmas corner” in the attic. It lies undisturbed for 11 months of the year until temperatures drop, Thanksgiving passes, and your friends and neighbors lose their right to complain about your holiday spirit until the new year. But digging through the attic isn’t just a sneezing hazard. Many attics and crawl spaces have vermiculite insulation, an asbestos-containing home insulator commonly used under the brand name “Zonolite” until the 1990s. Shifting boxes, digging for decorations, and moving attic messes out of the way can stir up these asbestos fibers, exposing your family to this dangerous particle. Keep yourself and your loved ones safe by following these asbestos attic safety rules:
- Don’t touch the insulation in your attic
- Don’t use an attic fan if your home may contain vermiculite insulation
- Don’t let kids play in the attic
- Always store items away from attic insulation
- Don’t move holiday decorations if doing so may disturb insulation
Even if you don’t have vermiculite insulation in the attic, it pays to play it safe. We’ve seen attic spaces contaminated by deteriorating asbestos-containing roof materials, too.
Does your home have insulation or vintage holiday decorations that may contain asbestos? Don’t take a risk with your health. Call Clean Environmental Group to have the problem taken care of by a team of licensed Atlanta asbestos abatement specialists.