ASBESTOS refers to a group of naturally occurring fibrous minerals that have the ability to resist heat, fire and electricity.
Although asbestos fibers are microscopic in nature, they are extremely durable and resistant to fire and most chemical reactions and breakdowns. These properties of asbestos supported its use for many years in a number of different commercial and industrial settings, as well as in a wide range of consumer products. Although its use has diminished in recent decades, there
are still many products that contain asbestos, especially in older homes, schools, and public buildings.
Health Issues related to Asbestos
Asbestos is made up of microscopic fibers that can easily become airborne and inhaled. Because of their shape, the asbestos
particles cling to tissues of the lungs and other areas of the respiratory system. Over time, these tiny fibers can cause
inflammation, causing a number of health problems, the three biggest of which are:
1.Mesothelioma — This aggressive cancer forms in the thin membrane (mesothelium) that protects vital organs in the chest and
abdomen. Exposure to asbestos is the only medically-verified cause of the disease.
2.Lung Cancer — Most commonly associated with factors like smoking and radon, lung cancer is also known to be exacerbated
by exposure to asbestos.
3.Asbestosis — This degenerative respiratory condition results from the formation of scar tissue plaques on the surface of the
pleura (lung linings). It can be a precursor to the onset of mesothelioma.
More information can be found at the Mesothelioma.com website.
Who is at Risk?
Because asbestos was used in thousands of commercial products up until approx 1980's and in some cases until 1990 and in
several industries, exposure to Asbestos was common in a long list of trades and occupations. Exposure may also be of concern
if you happen to work or go to school where asbestos products, especially friable type of asbestos, is still found. Friable is a term
given to a material which can easily be broken up (by hand, or mechanical damage) exposing particles of the material, some of
which may be asbestos.
Where can Asbestos be found?
Some of the more common areas asbestos may be found would be;
Exterior Building Material - cement siding, cement roof panels, loose fill insulation (Vermiculite)
Floor Finishes - Vinyl asbestos tiles, sheet vinyl flooring, floor leveling compound, linoleum flooring, mastic
Ceiling Structures - lay-in and stick up ceiling tiles, acoustic and stucco sprayed, plaster or drywall jointing material
Walls - plaster or drywall jointing materials, sprayed fireproofing, asbestos transite panels
Mechanical and Fan Rooms - insulation on boiler pipes, vessels, ducts, walls, ceilings, around furnaces and furnace plenums.
Mechanical Pipe Systems - steam and hot water heating supply and return lines, insulated pipes.
Literally 1000's of products contained Asbestos - Residential and Commercial Construction, the list is extensive:
Click here for a more comprehensive list of products and industries which may contain asbestos
Why should you care?
In Canada there are strict requirements for renovating, remodeling or even demolishing a building constructed prior to 1980 and
in some cases in some building constructed after 1980. You can't just go in and demolish or renovate an older building this may
disturb and release material which may contain asbestos, possibly harming the workers and or employees. Ontario Regulation
278/05 has put into place specific removal guidelines to help protect people. As a building owner/corporation you may be fined.
Why test for Asbestos?
As a home owner you may or may not be subject to the Ontario Regulation 278/05, however understanding what your property
may contain is important for you and your family's health, especially if you intend to renovate or remodel. The contractors you
hire may also need to understand what they are working with. Identifying possible asbestos containing material is a start, then a
laboratory test should be done to confirm. There are so many variations of material which may or may not contain asbestos
which is virtually impossible to tell by just looking at it. Testing is the only conclusive way.
When do you test for Asbestos?
Testing for asbestos should be done on homes or buildings built prior to 1980. Also if you intend to do any remodeling or
renovations. In some cases, if you do not disturbed the material and it is not friable then you may be able to leave it alone and or
encapsulate (sealing the material) it, this should only be determined after it has been examined and tested by a professional.