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Posted on Sun, Nov 6, 2011 : 9:35 a.m.

Remove or encapsulate torn asbestos pipe wrapping to prevent inhaling airborne fibers

By Judy DiForte

asbestos fibers.jpg

“Toxins for 400, please, Alex.”

“It was once touted as a miracle substance, but has now proven deadly,” Trebec prompts.

“What is arsenic?” BZZZ!

Trebec should add that it’s a natural substance used as far back as 3000 BC, found in archeological digs in Scandinavia, where they used it in pottery and log homes. Egyptians embalmed pharaohs with it; Persians wrapped their dead in it. By the late 19th century, more than 3,000 products were made with it, including textiles, construction materials and insulation.

“What is asbestos?” DING! Contestant gets a gold fiber.

The Betty Brigade recently consulted on clearing out a home built in the late 1920s, and in the basement… You got it: asbestos-wrapped pipes.

The expert we called said if the asbestos is contained, it’s safe. It’s only dangerous when its fibers become airborne and are inhaled. He identified danger areas where the asbestos wrap had torn or dried out and cracked. Below were piles of dust. Even then, he said, as long as the dust is undisturbed, the fibers are not airborne.

In other words, you can walk through there —just don’t start picking things up and moving them around.

The problem is, emptying a house is all about disturbing things — sorting, packing and channeling things to various destinations. So our team can’t work in the basement until it’s safe, which can happen two possible ways:

  • The asbestos can be completely removed and replaced by safe materials, the basement thoroughly vacuumed with special equipment, then air-tested.
  • Or, the torn and broken areas can be encapsulated with safe materials. The basement is then vacuumed and air-tested, as above.

Our homeowner chose the first option, but either one leads to a safe environment.

As the jeopardy player asked above, “What is asbestos?” I mean, what is it exactly?

Well, I checked, and it’s a set of six silicate minerals, known for their long, thin, fibrous crystals and their qualities of sound absorption, strength and resistance to fire. It must have other good features, too, or Egyptians and Persians wouldn’t have wrapped bodies in it.

Ill effects have long been suspected, but by the late 1970s, multiple studies had shown a clear link between asbestos fiber exposure and the risk of asbestosis and mesothelioma. The EPA and OSHA put safety regulations into effect for anyone working with or near asbestos.

When in doubt, check it out, and we’ll do asbestos we can... I hear you groaning. Well, the joke may be lame, but at least it's not toxic. (Be careful with it, though — years from now they may find out otherwise.)

Read more on the history of abestos here:

Judy DiForte is a professional organizer at The Betty Brigade, an Ann Arbor-based relocation, orgnaizing and event planning company. Email her at


E. Manuel Goldstein

Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 1:34 a.m.

Asbestos can cause cancers if inhaled, even from pipe insulation. The article should be much more clear about who can remove asbestos, it is not a job a homeowner can do, unless they are properly trained and equipped. It would be best to have a licensed asbestos abatement professional do the job. Asbestos must be disposed of properly as well, not just thrown out in the trash. The vacuums talked about in the article must be HEPA filter vacuums, not just any old vacuum cleaner. The main problem with asbestos is that asbestos-related diseases have a rather long latency period - meaning that it can take 20-30 years or more after exposure to contract a disease such as mesothelioma.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 12:17 p.m.

"There is zero evidence that something this trivial is harmful " You, of course, can provide links to support the absurd statement that this is trivial and not harmful? Of course you can. Good Night and Good Luck


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 1:23 a.m.

Oh please - and how many home owners who removed their own pipe wrap and flooring and tossed it in trash bags have gotten cancer? None? There is zero evidence that something this trivial is harmful - only a bunch of government rules written by government drones. Weed is much more harmful then asbestos and the prison sentences for possession should be increased to "..20-30 years or more."

Judy DiForte

Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 2:48 p.m.

No, not a job for the homeowner -- that's why we called in an asbestos expert. I don't think I implied that a homeowner can do this. Also I said "vacuumed with special equipment." Just a HEPA filter isn't enough. My Dyson has a HEPA filter. Sorry if I misled anyone, but if I did it was because the person didn't carefully read the blog.


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 12:53 a.m.

Nonsense. Asbestos is dangerous if you worked in a ship yard or other industry where the fibers were constantly in the air. In fact, these sloppy "studies" used to classify asbestos as hazardous even ignored those who were smoking. There is no evidence that pipe wrap or flooring are a problem but the EPA doesn't know the difference. If you like to see historic buildings torn down, you will love the EPA. Since enacted, their imbecilic rules have made billions of square feet of them uneconomical to save in the US.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 6:49 p.m.

"I know more then [SIC] the internet....." Judging by this post, apparently not. LOLOLOLOLOL GN&GL


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 10:36 p.m.

I know more then the internet.....

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 12:16 p.m.

"Like second hand smoke, the study the EPA used to ban asbestos as a carcinogen was a train wreck" You, of course, can provide links that justify this absurd statement. Of course you can. Good Night and Good Luck


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 1:17 a.m.

Like second hand smoke, the study the EPA used to ban asbestos as a carcinogen was a train wreck. It looked at manufacturing environments like ship yards with massive amounts asbestos in the air staffed by workers who often smoked a few packs of cigarettes a day. It made no distinction between smokers and non smokers and never studied something as trivial as a house with pipe wrap. filter that through the idiot government EPA and you have people running in circles thinking the asbestos embedded in a resin in their kitchen floor tile is going to kill them. This is not a poison where you eat some and die. The truth is that given the sloppy study and the poor work by EPA, we don't know how much exposure really is dangerous but these cancers are found in manufacturing workers – not house wives. In fact, it would be interesting to know if any women have ever gotten cancer from asbestos.

Judy DiForte

Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 4:36 p.m.

If fibers are constantly in the air, it's dangerous, but if they're only sometimes in the air, it's not?