Working with Dangerous Substances: Asbestos, Lead and Mold

Mold and asbestos are dangerous and sometimes may become airborne in either a work place or home. Asbestos may cause lung cancer or mesothelioma (asbestos cancer). Mold can cause birth defects in pregnant women and stifle a child’s learning.

A few notes should be remembered when possibly working near the substances.


Houses built before 1978 may have asbestos and lead. The compounds were put into homes before we knew their medical consequences. Some homes may have asbestos in the cottage cheese or acoustical ceilings. Asbestos is also commonly found in the heating ducts, vinyl tile flooring and floor mastics.

Mold is often growing around showers and sinks, and anywhere water might enter from outside the home. Leaking roofs and or windows are often the culprit. Get them fixed or replaced. A mildew smell in the air is an indicator of possible mold. Professionals can test the air.

Lead was mostly used in paint and is on walls, ceilings, mouldings and soldier used to fasten copper pipes. They have test kits for lead.


Areas affected by mold needs to be removed. Areas containing asbestos should be removed but can stay if not disturbed. Asbestos can be encapsulated. Lead in paint is only a problem if it is disturbed. Sanding and scraping is not recommended without the proper protection. These compounds are better handled by the professionals.


Mildew resistant additives can be added to paint to resist mold. We often use it in our bathroom paints. Look for areas that have water stains or feel wet to the touch. If you see any signs of water stains, they should be traced to their origin and abated. If you see black spots in wet areas call a professional. If you smell mildew and cannot see the damp areas, call a professional, especially if anyone in the home is feeling sick. Asbestos exposure is more difficult to manage once exposed. Sealing the asbestos with paint is common, but encapsulation is second best only to total removal. If exposure occurs, seek the services of an asbestos professional. Do not remain in a contaminated home. Lead paint is only a problem when it is disturbed. Oh, also, as crazy as it might sound, if a child is chewing on a painted surface or eating peeling paint, again stop him or her immediately.

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