If you are considering a renovation, demolition or adding an addition to your home, you can reduce your risk of exposure by hiring a professional to test for asbestos. If asbestos is found, hire a qualified asbestos removal specialist to remove these products before beginning work. You should avoid disturbing asbestos materials yourself as this increased the risk to you and your family’s health. If you have vermiculite-based insulation in your attic, it may contain asbestos. To avoid exposure do not disturb the attic insulation and you should not allow children in the attic or use the attic for storage. All cracks and holes in the ceiling of the rooms below the insulation should be sealed and caulk around light fixtures and the attic hatch. You may also want to caulk windows, door frames, baseboards and around electrical outlets in case the insulation has fallen through the walls over time.
It is important to note that there are no significant health risks if asbestos materials in your home are tightly bound in products and in good condition, if they are sealed behind walls and floorboards or isolated in an attic and the materials are left undisturbed. However, if you are renovating or demolishing your home small asbestos fibres can be released into the air. If you suspect that your home has asbestos products, you should have these materials tested prior to a major renovation.
Asbestos fibres are microscopic and therefore cannot be seen, nor can the fibres be smelled or tasted, so it is easy to inhale or swallow asbestos dust without realizing it. Once asbestos fibres are in the body, they never dissolve and the body has extreme difficulty expelling them. Over years, trapped asbestos fibres can cause inflammation, scarring and eventually genetic damage to the body’s cells. It can take between 20 to 50 years for asbestos-related illnesses to materialize, therefore most cases today were caused by asbestos exposures that occurred before modern safety regulations came into effect. Asbestos fibers most often accumulate in lung tissue and in the membrane lining the lungs. Benign asbestos-related diseases include asbestosis, pleuritis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which make it difficult for patients to breathe. Asbestos also causes malignant diseases such as lung cancer and mesothelioma which is a rare cancer of the lining of the chest or abdominal cavity.
The manufacturing of most materials containing asbestos was banned in Canada in 1979. However, many non-friable materials continued to be produced and also stockpiles of products were still in existence for years later, therefore asbestos products can be found in building built into the early 1990s.
Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring silicate minerals that are fibrous in nature. Asbestos fibres are soft and flexible yet resistant to heat, electricity and chemical corrosion. Asbestos is an effective insulator and can be mixed into all kinds of substances including paper, cloth, cement, plastic and other materials to make them stronger. Before 1990, asbestos was mainly used for insulating buildings and homes against cold weather and noise. It was also used for fireproofing, and in construction products such as cement and plaster, furnaces and heating systems, floor and ceiling tiles and house siding.