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Asbestos is a hidden health hazard that can lurk right in the place where you should feel the safest: home. While those who work in the construction industry are considered the most vulnerable to asbestos exposure, especially repeated exposure, it's important to keep in mind that even very limited exposure-such as what you might experience during a simple renovation project-can have long-term negative effects. Make it a priority to prevent you and your family members from coming into contact with this dangerous material.
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is the term used to describe a group of natural minerals-including chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, anthophyllite, and actinolite. Together, these minerals can resist heat and corrosion, which is why they have historically been used in the construction of homes and other structures.
Where does asbestos lurk?
Asbestos has been used in innumerable products, even vehicle brakes and clutches. It was used most heavily between 1930 and 1970, but in the U.S. and Canada, the two nations that have not yet banned it, asbestos is still in use today in spite of the fact that it is a known human carcinogen. At home, it may be present in the following places:
- A sprayed coating on support beams
- Attic insulation
- Insulation in ceiling, window, and door panels
- Roof shingles and tar
- Drywall and drywall glue
- Insulation on pipes
- In vinyl or thermoplastic tile flooring
- In textured coatings used for decorative purposes, like popcorn ceilings
Asbestos can be present in the ceiling that shelters you, the walls that support it, and the floor under your feet.
Why is asbestos so dangerous?
It's surprising that something "natural" can pose such a threat, but asbestos can cause a number of serious diseases, some of which may develop slowly over time. But once they manifest, there's often little that can be done to remedy them. Asbestos is, in a word, deadly. Some of the health-related consequences of asbestos exposure include:
- Lung cancer, which looks very much like lung cancer caused by smoking
- Pleural thickening, in which the lining of the lung swells to an uncomfortable degree
- Mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs and the lining of the lower digestive tract; once diagnosed, it is usually fatal
- Asbestosis, a painful and sometimes fatal scarring of the lungs
How can you avoid exposure to asbestos?
Even though asbestos may be present in various parts of your house, you aren't likely to develop mesothelioma just by living there. You are most likely to be exposed to asbestos during DIY home renovation projects or repairs. And if you have professionals come in to do renovations and repairs, it is extremely important that they understand asbestos and do not release any fibers of damaged or crumbling asbestos into the air, where they can circulate and be inhaled by everyone around. When renovating or repairing home areas where asbestos is present (or may be present-you don't always know, especially if you live in an older home), take the following precautions:
- Wear a suitable mask-not just a flimsy dust mask, but one designed to keep asbestos at bay
- Use hand tools, not power tools
- Clean up with a vacuum cleaner, not a broom, as you work
- Put any asbestos waste in labeled, heavy-duty bags
Do additional research before beginning any home project during which you might encounter asbestos, and keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
For any information or questions about home insurance, call or contact Wallace & Turner, Inc. today.
Homeownership is one of the great American dreams, an achievement virtually all of us aspire to. There's something about having a little part of planet Earth to call your own that inspires a sense of both security and pride. Getting the keys to your very first home is almost always cause for celebration: you open the door, cross the threshold, and enter your very own castle - whether it be an apartment, a condo, or a single-family home - and prepare to reign happily over a kingdom characterized by peace, coziness, and serenity, a haven and sanctuary from the travails of the world outside.
But what happens if you're one of those unfortunate homeowners who makes the bone-chilling discovery that you, your family, and your pets are not the only ones inhabiting your home sweet home? Perhaps a series of unexplainable occurrences, sounds, or sensations has led you to conclude that the house you worked so hard to obtain is actually (gulp) haunted.
As horrified homeowners have known for centuries, ghosts make their presence known in a variety of ways, including the following:
- Pets seem to see the unseen! Fido and Fifi bark, cower, whimper, or moan for reasons you can't see or sense. There's no intruder in the house, no storm on the horizon, and nothing physically wrong with the pets, but they behave as if there's a presence in the house - a decidedly unwelcome one.
- There are spontaneous light shows. Lights flicker on and off, seemingly of their own accord. No one in the house - at least no one among the living - is playing with the lights, but some entity seems to be having a good time giving you the creeps.
- Hot and cold spots abound. You move from one room to another and pass through an icy-cold or blazing-hot spot or which there is no logical explanation. Only a spirit could alter the temperature in your home in such a strange and noticeable way.
- You hear noises with no discernible origin. Footsteps, creaks, scratching sounds, and knocks occur, but neither you nor any of your housemates are responsible. You can be sure that ghosts are finding weird ways to alert you to their paranormal presence.
- Shadows appear, but you can't see what's casting them. Also known as "shadow people," these dark, mobile images on walls and floors - often shaped remarkably like humans - are cast by spirits who feel frighteningly at home in your home.
Living in a haunted house can be stressful for a variety of reasons. There's the psychological stress that comes with being perpetually spooked, as well as the financial stress that can result when particularly aggressive ghosts wreak havoc around the house: they break things, and send the energy bill sky high with their constant tinkering with the lights! Moreover, it's certainly unsettling to feel as though you are never alone, and always being watched, especially in the one place you hope for a little privacy.
What's the owner of a haunted house to do? Here are a few options:
- Resign yourself to cohabitating with creeps, and turn your home into a tourist attraction, a la the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, CA, Franklin Castle in Cleveland, OH, McPike Mansion in Alton, IL, or the terrifying Lizzie Borden House in Fall River, MA.
- Call in the experts. Go online to find a paranormal research professional in your area, and have him or her come over to suss out the situation, and provide solutions.
- Cleanse the house. Burn a bundle of sage and allow the smoke to waft into every room and every nook and cranny of your home. Sage has long been used to purify environments and sends the message to evil spirits that they should skedaddle!
- Talk to the ghosts directly. Some spirits may simply be afraid to make the transition over to the other side. Encourage them to go. Tell them that it's even better over there than it is in your house - hard for any proud homeowner to admit, but quite possibly true!
For any other spooky questions about insurance, call or contact Wallace & Turner, Inc. today.
What would we do without our handy power strips? Those convenient blocks of electrical sockets, which enable us to convert one outlet into several, make it possible to plug in all the gear that we can't live without these days. A typical location for a power strip is the home office, where it helps computers, speakers, printer, monitors, and all sorts of other necessities come to life. But many households have power strips in multiple rooms, if not every room, since there are so many items that require plugging in these days. Hairstyling tools, cooking equipment, and phone chargers come to mind!
If a power strip has 10 outlets, it's safe to assume you can go ahead and use them all, right? Not necessarily. In fact, power strips are culprits in many devastating house fires. Use the following power strip safety tips to protect your home and property:
- Learn the circuit capacity of the main outlet you are using, as well as the power requirements of the items you plan to plug into your power strip. If the requirements of the items exceed the circuit capacity, you are overloading the circuit and creating a fire hazard.
- Understand that a surge protector, which is a facet of some but not all power strips, may protect your electrical equipment (such as your computer) from damage in the event of a surge of electricity; it does not function to prevent fires.
- Using many power strips in your home is a sign that you have too few outlets. For fire prevention, arrange to have more outlets installed at your house and lessen your reliance on power strips.
- Never "piggy back" or create a "daisy chain" with power strips. This means plugging one power strip into another power strip to markedly increase the number of outlets. Power strips are not designed to be used this way, and doing so can result in a fire.
- Do not use standard power strips in moist environments, such as a bathroom, a kitchen countertop, or a garage that is not climate controlled. Water and power strips don't mix, and if they do, a fire may result. If you must use a fire strip in an area that is prone to moisture, buy one that is specially designed to be safe in such conditions. If you require a power strip in your garage, have a professional electrician hard wire a moisture-resistant one and mount it to a wall.
- Outside, there are many hazards, including moist weather, falling debris, and even insects, all of which can compromise the safety of a power strip. There are power strips designed for outdoor use; only these are appropriate for use outside of the house. As is the case with garage power strips, it's smart to have an outdoor power strip mounted to a wall rather than left on the ground.
- Know what you are buying. When you shop for power strips, look for the following: make sure they are UL (Underwriters Laboratory) or ETL (Electrical Testing Laboratories) certified; make sure you choose a power strip that is rated for the appropriate amount of amperage according to your needs. Choosing one that is rated for more amperage than you require is okay-this can help you avoid an overload.
Needless to say, if you notice anything out of the ordinary with your power strip, such as a failure to work, don't wait and see what happens, replace it promptly. Some electronics recycling services take unwanted power strips, as well as a variety of other materials, like USB cords and more, for green disposal.
For any questions about home insurance, Call or contact Wallace and Turner, Inc. today.
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