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Watch Out for Asbestos Tape on Ductwork: What You Need to Know

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Brandon Kirk

Brandon Kirk is the owner of Planet Duct-Air Duct Cleaning. As a NADCA Certified Air-Duct Cleaning Specialist, he has extensive experience servicing air ducts in El Paso County and the Southern CO region since 2019.

Hi, readers! Brandon Kirk, owner of Planet Duct, here. Today, I want to draw your attention to a critical but often overlooked issue in older homes and buildings in Colorado Springs — the presence of asbestos tape in air ducts. I recently had an eye-opening (but not uncommon) experience while working in a crawl space, which I believe is vital for everyone to be aware of, especially if you live or work in a building constructed in the mid-20th century.

Identifying the Hazard in Your Air Ducts

In my line of work with Planet Duct, I frequently encounter air ducts made in the late 40s or early 50s. A common feature of these old ducts is a distinctive type of tape used for sealing. Unlike standard duct or metal tape, this particular tape is white, often found in varying conditions. In some cases, it may appear water-damaged or deteriorated. 

The Asbestos Threat

While I’m not a certified asbestos professional, my experience suggests that this white tape should be treated with caution. It’s what we refer to as a suspected asbestos-containing material. Asbestos, as many of you might know, was a popular insulating material used extensively until its health risks became widely acknowledged. 

Here’s the various ways that asbestos can become harmful:

  • Airborne Fibers: Asbestos becomes a threat when its fibers become airborne. This can occur when asbestos-containing materials, like the suspected tape, are disturbed or deteriorate over time.
  • Inhalation Risk: Once airborne, asbestos fibers can be inhaled easily. These fibers are tiny and can lodge in the lungs, leading to serious respiratory issues over time.
  • Long-Term Health Effects: Exposure to asbestos fibers is linked to severe health conditions, including asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma, a specific type of cancer associated with asbestos exposure.
  • No Safe Exposure Level: Health experts agree that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Even small amounts can pose a risk, especially with prolonged or repeated exposure.
  • Material Deterioration: In older buildings, materials containing asbestos, like the white tape in air ducts, can deteriorate or get damaged, increasing the risk of fiber release.
  • Difficulty in Detection: Asbestos fibers are not detectable by sight or smell. Specialized testing is required to confirm their presence, which is why handling suspected materials should be done with caution.
  • Secondary Exposure: Asbestos fibers can attach to clothing, tools, or other objects, leading to secondary exposure risks for others who may not have been in direct contact with the original material.

Why It Matters

The presence of suspected asbestos tape on air ducts is a significant concern. When disturbed, asbestos can release fibers into the air, posing severe health risks, including respiratory issues and even cancer. Therefore, if you encounter this type of tape, it’s crucial not to attempt cleaning the ducts yourself.

Given the threat of asbestos tape in your vents, it’s vital that you get it removed safely. We highly recommend calling Rex Environmental, a well-regarded asbestos testing and remediation company in Colorado. 

Identifying Asbestos Duct Tape

Given the threat of asbestos tape in your vents, you want to be sure if your air ducts have it or not. Here’s what to look out for and be aware of when identifying asbestos duct tape:

  • Appearance: Often white and fibrous, asbestos-containing duct tape usually harbors high levels of asbestos. It’s generally thicker than modern duct tape.
  • Risks: Simply peeling it off can release asbestos fibers into the air, making it particularly dangerous (friable).
  • Pre-1990 Buildings: If your home was constructed before 1990 and has white tape on the ductwork, exercise extreme caution and do not disturb it without proper controls.

Immediate Steps to Take

Avoid Disturbance: Do not engage in any activity that could agitate the tape, such as cleaning, abrasion, or causing vibration.

Professional Testing: Contact a professional environmental company for asbestos testing. I tell all my clients that Rex Environmental is a reliable choice for such services.

Seek Expert Advice: Depending on the test results, connect with an asbestos abatement contractor. They can safely handle the situation if asbestos is present.

A Word of Caution

Remember, even if the tape seems stable, any disturbance could release harmful fibers. The rule of thumb is if in doubt, don’t touch it. Get it tested first.

Protect Yourself From the Dangers of Asbestos Today

If you suspect the presence of asbestos tape in your air ducts, take immediate action. Safety should always be your top priority. Reach out to our partners at Rex Environmental, a highly recognized and respected asbestos testing service in Colorado.