Is Asbestos Removal Covered By Insurance?
Homeowners insurance generally will not cover asbestos removal because it is an airborne pollutant, and pollution is an excluded loss in most policies. One exception is if a covered peril caused the release of the harmful asbestos fibers, such as a tree branch falling on your roof and disrupted asbestos in your attic. Otherwise, you are responsible for the cost of identifying and removing asbestos from your home if it poses a risk.
Fortunately, asbestos may not pose as an immediate health hazard as you think. Keep reading to learn why and tips on managing asbestos in your home.
What Is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring and durable mineral with resistance to heat, electricity and corrosion, making it a popular building material in the mid-1900s. The mineral’s unique properties were also used to reinforce cloth, cement, plastic and other materials. However, later research revealed the toxic and carcinogenic properties in asbestos.
Today, asbestos is less commonplace. While not entirely banned in the U.S., asbestos is heavily regulated. Unfortunately, asbestos removal is an excluded peril in most standard homeowners policies and your insurer will not cover its removal.
Why Asbestos Is Dangerous
Asbestos is dangerous because inhaling its highly toxic fibers can pose severe health risks. Ingesting small amounts over several years can cause inflammation, scarring and genetic damage. A heavy concentration of asbestos can cause mesothelioma, a severe type of lung cancer. Patients may die as early as 12 months after being diagnosed.
Other diseases caused by asbestos ingestion include:
- Diffuse pleural thickening
- Pleural effusions an plaques
Certain occupations with high exposure to asbestos are more vulnerable to developing health issues. The risk has been reduced in industries, like mining, construction, manufacturing and shipbuilding but the following industries are still at risk according to The Mesothelioma Center:
- Automotive repair
- Chloralkali production
- Building and equipment maintenance
- Renovation and demolition
- Sheet gasket use
- Oilfield brake block repair
Where Is Asbestos Commonly Found?
Asbestos is commonly found in houses built before the 1980s — around the time asbestos was phased out as a construction material in the U.S. If you have an older house built over 40 years ago, it may carry asbestos in the following areas and fixtures:
- Artificial ashes and embers for gas-fired fireplaces
- Insulation for ducts, pipes, attics
- Ceiling tiles
- Cement roofing and sheets
- HVAC duct insulation
- Joint compound
- Linoleum and vinyl floor tiles
- Oil and coal furnaces and door gaskets
- Roofing felt
- Shingles on roofs and sidings
- Steam pipes
- Stovetop pads and stove door gaskets
- Textured spray-on paint
- Walls and floors around heating appliances (e.g., wood-burning stoves, fireplaces, boilers)
- Window caulking
Asbestos may have a higher presence in regions populated with a higher quantity of older homes. The northeastern region, especially, has more older homes than other regions in the U.S. Thirty percent of homes in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York were built before 1940.
The following cities have a higher percentage of older homes, increasing the likelihood of asbestos exposure:
- New York
- Washington, D.C.
- New Orleans
- San Francisco
- Oakland, California
- Portland, Oregon
When Would Insurance Cover Asbestos?
Standard home insurance policies would only cover asbestos if its fibers were released as a result of a covered loss.
For example, burglary and falling objects are covered in a standard home policy. Say a burglar broke into your home and in the process of ransacking it, scraped against a fixture with asbestos and released its fibers. In this scenario, you may be covered. Similarly, if asbestos was present in your attic and a tree branch fell and disrupted it, then this may be a covered claim.
In the above cases, home insurance should cover the cost of removing the asbestos from your home. The additional living expenses coverage portion of your policy should also cover the cost of hotel fares while your home is being treated.
Below are the 16 perils that are covered in a standard homeowners insurance policy. If asbestos in your was disrupted as a result of these perils, then your insurer may cover asbestos removal.
If you want coverage for asbestos, ask your homeowners insurance company about pollution coverage, which may cover asbestos removal if the mineral was disrupted. Not all insurance companies will sell this endorsement but it is worth looking into, especially if your home is older than 40 years.
How Can You Tell if Asbestos Is in Your House?
It’s difficult to determine if asbestos exists in your home fixtures unless you look at it under a microscope. Asbestos in its natural forms can be white, green, blue and brown but can change into a different color after it’s processed for construction. Professional testing is generally the only accurate way to determine the presence of asbestos.
Are You Safe If You Find Asbestos in Your Home?
Asbestos is not immediately dangerous if the asbestos is intact and undisturbed. However, your safety is compromised if the mineral’s toxic fibers become airborne because the mineral was disrupted. The disruption is often accidental, such as scraping or drilling holes into asbestos materials for a home DIY project.
If you suspect there is asbestos in your home, your best bet is to leave materials that are in good condition alone and limit access to areas that contain asbestos. There is generally no danger unless the fibers are released and then inhaled. However, you may want to hire a professional to do an asbestos inspection to confirm its presence and learn additional precautions you should take.
Be wary of DIY renovation projects if you live in an older home. Asbestos was commonly used in the mid-1900s and tearing up walls and flooring can release harmful asbestos particles into the air if it was a building material in your home. Consider hiring a professional to test your home for asbestos before starting that DIY weekend project.
Can You Remove Asbestos on Your Own?
Asbestos fibers are highly toxic and asbestos removal should not be a DIY project. Hiring a licensed professional is your best and safest bet. Professionals will have the practices and specialized equipment to accurately identify, handle and thoroughly remove asbestos from your home. Improper handling of asbestos can put yourself, your family and your pets at risk.
Asbestos Tips for Homeowners
Here are some homeowner tips for managing asbestos inside your home:
- Test your home for asbestos if your house was constructed before 1980.
- If you know asbestos is present in your home and it’s in good condition, limit access to the affected area and do not disturb asbestos in good condition.
- Hire a professional to test for and remove asbestos from your home.
- Do not ever saw, sand or drill holes in asbestos materials.
- If a material with asbestos is damaged, do not transport the affected material around your home.
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