I have been meaning to write about this for quite a while, and two recent incidents have moved me to do so.
- While inspecting the basement of an older home, I saw old furnace pipe insulation that was probably asbestos. When I pointed this out to the homeowner, he said “Oh, that isn’t asbestos,” and promptly flicked at it with his bare hand. I was halfway up the stairs in a jiffy.
- I met a buyer at a home in the Bronx. We walked in the kitchen, and a nice pile of obviously recently dumped asbestos like material was right in the middle of the floor. Some rocket scientist had obviously put it there out of carelessness or worse. Who knows how long before or what was in the air. If this isn’t criminal, it should be.
Asbestos insulation is harmless. Asbestos dust that is airborne is a carcinogen. If I were to disturb asbestos every time I saw it, I could be breathing in huge amounts of the stuff. So I don’t touch it, ever. I’ve actually gotten into arguments with people over disturbing the stuff. “Please don’t touch that” isn’t enough for some people, who will often deny it is asbestos, or say something dumb, like “I know what I’m doing.” Yeah, I know what you’re doing too, and it can make me sick.
Think about this: If you take your pen and poke at asbestos in a basement of a home for sale, you might not breathe it in. But if some poor slob has a showing right after your viewing and they come down the stairs a few minutes later, even if they don’t touch it and figure they are OK, they just breathed in your cancer-causing stupidity. So don’t even touch it.
There is no reason to touch it. Touching asbestos doesn’t confirm it’s existence, make it less lethal, or help in any way. It just increases the chance that particles will become airborne. Most people would never knowingly harm another. Yet they are drawn to asbestos like a moth to a flame. Here’s the thing: You might see it once, but I see it several times per week, maybe more. And I like being alive and watching my kids grow up. So, as a personal favor, if I am showing you a house and we see what looks like asbestos, leave it alone. I thank you in advance.