How Many U.S. Homes Likely Still Contain Asbestos?

asbestos in my house

Homes built in the 21st century don’t contain asbestos, a cancerous mineral that causes mesothelioma.

Unfortunately, millions of homes from asbestos’ heyday still exist throughout the United States. Unsuspecting families still spend hours of their days inside these carcinogenic hotbeds.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau 2019 American Community Survey, approximately 12% of homes were built prior to 1940. More than half the houses were built before 1980, which is the unofficial demarcation line separating asbestos’ peak usage and phasing out.

That means more than half of U.S. homes were built with asbestos in or around the walls, floorboards, ceiling tiles, roof tiles, insulation, pipes and electrical wires. If they weren’t refurbished within the last 30 years, then the degraded “legacy” asbestos poses a risk to all inhabitants.

Most purchases are for older homes, increasing the chances of buying a hazardous residence. The National Association of Home Builders conducted a survey in 2018 of preference versus actual purchase. Around 30% wanted a brand new home, but only 11% of home sales were for new construction. The other 89% were for existing homes.

Before purchasing an existing home, we recommend getting a thorough inspection to detect any asbestos. If any exists, ask for an asbestos remediation expert to make your new residence safe.

If you want more information on legacy asbestos in residences, visit our blog about ways exposure can happen at home.


Cities With the Most Homes Likely to Contain Asbestos

The northeast and midwest regions of the U.S. have the largest percentages of old homes, explicitly homes built before 1940. The U.S. Census Bureau data from 2019 shows that more than 30% of homes in Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island fit this age description.

The website Filterbuy analyzed the U.S. Census Bureau data and uncovered the cities with the most pre-1940 homes. The website includes three lists, one each for small, mid-size and large cities.

Cleveland has the most pre-1940 homes in the country. It has nearly 109,000, which is around 52% of all homes in the city. Boston (106,449, 48.2%) and San Francisco  (183,323, 45.1%) are second and third, followed by:

  • Minneapolis, Minnesota (84,419, 43.8%)
  • Baltimore, Maryland (123,352, 42%)
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (285,003, 41.2%)
  • Chicago, Illinois (492,213, 40.4%)
  • New York, New York (1,383,287, 39%)
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin (95,525, 36.7%)
  • Oakland, California (65,364, 35.8%)
  • Washington, D.C. (105,898, 32.8%)
  • Detroit, Michigan (117,572, 32.7%)
  • New Orleans, Louisiana (61,959, 32.2%)
  • Portland, Oregon (82,428, 27.6%)
  • Seattle, Washington (88,091, 23.7%)

Buffalo (59.8%) has the highest percentage of old homes among mid-sized cities, followed by:

  • St. Louis, Missouri (58.7%)
  • Providence, Rhode Island (57.4%)
  • Rochester, New York (57.2%)
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (48.2%)
  • Worcester, Massachusetts (42.5%)
  • Springfield, Massachusetts (41.6%)
  • Cincinnati, Ohio (40.9%)
  • St. Paul, Minnesota (40.1%)
  • Grand Rapids, Michigan (37.5%)
  • Akron, Ohio (32.9%)
  • Toledo, Ohio (32.6%)
  • Des Moines, Iowa (31.7%)
  • Yonkers, New York (30.5%)
  • Richmond, Virginia (30%)

Cambridge, Massachusetts (47.3%) has the highest percentage of old homes among small U.S. cities, followed by:

  • Berkeley, California (46.9%)
  • Lowell, Massachusetts (45.8%)
  • New Haven, Connecticut (44.1%)
  • Allentown, Pennsylvania (44.1%)
  • Syracuse, New York (43.8%)
  • Dayton, Ohio (37.1%)
  • Manchester, New Hampshire (36.6%)
  • Bridgeport, Connecticut (35.8%)
  • Hartford, Connecticut (35.7%)
  • East Los Angeles, California (34.1%)
  • Pasadena, California (30.2%)
  • Waterbury, Connecticut (30%)
  • Elizabeth, New Jersey (28.8%)
  • Patterson, New Jersey (28.1%)

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