I recently discovered friable, breaking asbestos pipe insulation in my basement. We are going to have air quality testing done, and have considered dust wipe testing as well. I am extremely concerned for my family's health, including very young children, and would really appreciate any help you could provide!
We stored the a/c units in the basement uncovered for at least one year, and covered for 2 additional years, using them in the summertime. Additionally, we spent several months airing out a dresser in the bedroom with a fan blowing, creating negative pressure, which could have caused air to circulate into our living space (we did have a window open in the bedroom for some of this time). Furthermore, we have brought a couple of boxes and strollers previously stored in the basement (most of them directly under the asbestos) up into our living space on a few occasions.
I realize that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure, but I hope you might be able to help me understand how serious my family's exposure may have been -- particularly from the a/c units that were stored in the basement. I realize there is little we can do except minimize our ongoing risk exposure, but knowing the extent of our exposure would at least help me understand what testing my family should go through as we age.
Also, if you can help me understand what testing we can do to help determine our exposure, I would appreciate it! I would like to find out how much asbestos we might have been exposed to via the a/c units, but I'm not sure if it's possible to do dust wipe testing and then estimate the exposure we might have had from that dust becoming airborne? Or to have the a/c filter tested? (it's been used for 2 summers since it was left uncovered, though, so I suspect that would not be very telling)
Unfortunately, the swipe testing of the a/c unit or the filter is not likely to yield accurate information about the exposure of individuals in the home. For example, when we try to model or estimate exposure to airborne particles, environmental/air monitoring is performed in the breathing zone or area in space (at the level of the mouth and nose) that represents the air that individuals breathe. Swipe testing indicates that the measured particles are present but does not provide accurate information of airborne particles.
Even if the swipe testing were positive, this would not necessarily confirm that individuals in the home were exposed and certainly would not provide quantitative information about the amount, frequency, or level of exposure.
The medical tests that we currently use to evaluate exposure to asbestos are not useful for acute measurement of exposure. For example, radiographs (x-rays) and CT scans will not typically demonstrate signs of asbestos exposure for 20+ years.
Please follow-up with additional questions that you may have.
~ Dr. Parks
This answer provided to you is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice. The information presented in this Medhelp.org posting is for patients’ education only. As always, I encourage you to see your personal physician for further evaluation of your individual case.
Thank you for your response! Since I first posted, we have had the air tested, and 2 samples from the basement and 1 from the living space were negative for asbestos. A dust sample from the home was negative, but a dust sample from the basement showed trace asbestos (less than 1% of the dust was asbestos, but it was present). We realize that our "everyday" breathing air was most likely OK, but we also expect that we had exposure on specific occasions -- moving boxes in the basement, using fans stored there, our a/c units that we stored there, etc.
While I realize it's impossible to determine for sure how much asbestos we were exposed to, I'm trying to get some sense of the magnitude of our exposure and the likelihood of illness resulting from it. I don't know if it is likely to be a 1/10,000 chance, or a 1/4 chance. Can you help to put this in context for me?
Also, can you shed any light on how the ramifications might be different for small children exposed?
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