Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral used in many construction products. According to Health Canada, Breathing in asbestos fibres can cause cancer and other diseases, such as: asbestosis – a scarring of the lungs, which makes it difficult to breathe; mesothelioma – a rare cancer of the lining of the chest or abdominal cavity; lung cancer – smoking can greatly increase this risk. It is considered to be a carcinogen.
Asbestos has been used in: sealant, putty, and spackling compounds; vinyl floor tiles, backing for vinyl sheet flooring, and flooring adhesives; ceiling tiles; textured paint; exterior wall and ceiling insulation; roofing shingles; cement board for many uses, including siding; door gaskets for furnaces and wood-burning stoves; concrete piping; paper, millboard and cement board sheets used to protect walls and floors around wood-burning stoves; fabric connectors between pieces of metal ductwork; hot water and steam piping insulation, blanket covering and tape; and as insulation on boilers, oil-fired furnaces, and coal-fired furnaces.
Asbestos has been used to make products strong, long-lasting and fire-resistant. Production and use of asbestos have declined since the 1970s. Before 1990, asbestos was mainly used for insulating buildings and homes against cold weather, noise and for fireproofing. It may also be found in some auto parts.
Products containing asbestos are not always a health hazard. The potential health risk occurs when these products become worn or deteriorate in a way that releases asbestos fibers into the air. Of particular concern are those asbestos-containing products that are soft, that were sprayed or troweled on, or that have become crumbly. In this condition, asbestos is considered to be in a friable state.
There are no significant health risks if materials containing asbestos in your home are:
1. Tightly bound in products and are in good condition
2. Sealed behind walls and floorboards
3. Isolated in an attic
4. Left undisturbed
If a material is suspected as asbestos, it should be treated as asbestos until tested otherwise. Testing by a qualified laboratory, as directed by the environmental professional, may be needed in order to make an informed decision.
Samples to be tested by a qualified laboratory still need to be collected professionally to control and/or prevent releasing fibres into the air. Proper PPE, protocols and procedures that are minimally invasive should be should be employed.
In a case where asbestos may be in a friable state, A certified environmental professional could perform an inspection and make the decision whether to enclose, coat, encapsulate or remove deteriorated asbestos-containing products. Encapsulation, removal and disposal of asbestos products must be done by a qualified asbestos-abatement contractor.
For more information, visit https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/air-quality/indoor-air-contaminants/health-risks-asbestos.html
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