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Many homes built between before the 1980s used materials containing asbestos, a mineral fiber used for its durability and resistance to fire. Back then, asbestos could be found in everyday household items, appliances, and construction materials, and it can still be found in homes today.
Homeowners insurance generally won’t cover the removal of pollutants, including the abatement or removal of asbestos. The only instance your insurance company may cover asbestos removal is if it was dispersed in your home due to a covered peril, like a bad storm or fire. If asbestos removal is required as part of repairs to your home after a covered loss, your insurance may reimburse you for its remediation and removal.
Asbestos isn’t dangerous as long as it’s undisturbed and in good condition, but when the mineral is cut, scraped, or damaged in any way, it releases harmful fibers into the air that can lead to health problems when inhaled over an extended period of time. If areas of your home have been exposed to asbestos particles, consult a licensed professional.
When a material containing asbestos is damaged, it can release harmful fibers into the air that can cause disease
Most policies exclude losses caused by pollutants and contaminants, so a standard home insurance policy won’t cover the abatement or removal of asbestos
Asbestos is mostly safe when materials containing it are in good condition, but if items containing asbestos are damaged, you should consult a professional to remove it from your home
Asbestos is a mineral fiber that was commonly used in building materials and appliances in the 20th century. After the fiber was discovered to be a carcinogen in 1997, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enacted strict regulations to limit its use and help prevent asbestos-related diseases.
The mineral was also used in household items and kitchen appliances, such as stove tops, heaters, and bottle warmers. When disturbed and inhaled in high levels, asbestos fibers can increase your risk for disease and other health problems such as lung cancer, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Homeowners insurance typically won’t cover asbestos removal or abatement if particle exposure wasn’t caused by a covered loss. Most standard policies exclude coverage for pollutants, including asbestos, which releases harmful fibers into the air when disturbed.
If asbestos fibers are released into your home as a result of a covered loss, your insurance company may pay for asbestos removal and remediation as part of the home’s repairs. But if you need asbestos removed as part of a home renovation or remodeling project, you’ll need to cover the costs yourself. Those costs typically cover the special handling of asbestos, the removal of debris, and possible testing.
You can contact your home insurer directly or refer to your policy documents for information about your coverage and exclusions in your policy.
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Many older homes have materials that contain asbestos. Asbestos can mostly be found in:
Steam pipes, boilers, and furnace ducts - If you live in an older home, it’s possible that one or more parts of your HVAC unit may be insulated with an asbestos blanket or asbestos paper tape
Paper, millboard, and cement sheets - Sheets containing asbestos were often used to insulate certain structures, including the walls and floors surrounding a furnace or a wood-burning stove
Door gaskets - Gaskets containing asbestos were often used to seal surfaces, joints, and pipes because it was inexpensive and fireproof
Old appliances - For most of the 20th century, many appliances were lined with asbestos for its insulating and heat resisting properties
Vinyl floor tiles - Asbestos may be present in floor tiles made of vinyl, asphalt, and rubber, specifically the adhesives used to install the tiles. Harmful fibers are released when the backs of these tiles are scraped or sanded during the removal process
Artificial ashes and embers - Gas-fired fireplaces in homes built before 1990 often used artificial ashes and embers containing asbestos
Textured paint, patching, and joint compounds - Patching and joint compounds in walls and ceilings, as well as some forms of paint, may contain asbestos and scraping or drilling through them can release its harmful fibers
A home’s roof and siding shingles - If present in your home’s roof and shingles, asbestos cement can become hazardous when it is cut, torn, or breached in any way
If an asbestos-contained material in your home is in good condition, then the best thing to do is leave it alone. Asbestos isn’t harmful as long as its particles aren’t exposed, but cutting, sanding, drilling, and tearing through a ceiling tile or insulation containing asbestos can lead to major health risks.
If you suspect your home has been exposed to asbestos fibers, do not attempt to remove it yourself — contact a professional.
Removing asbestos can cost thousands of dollars, averaging anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000.
Stephanie Nieves is an insurance editor at Policygenius in New York City, specializing in auto and home insurance. She's been writing about insurance, finance and financial planning since 2018, and loves helping readers get the knowledge they need to make financial decisions with confidence. Her words can also be found on PayScale, Fairygodboss, and The Muse.
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