Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was commonly used in Canada until the 1980’s for acoustic and thermal insulation, and fire proofing. As such many older industrial, commercial and residential buildings still have asbestos-containing materials, which can include: ceiling tiles, plaster, texture coat (stucco), drywall compound, vinyl floor tiles and sheeting, pipe insulation, and some loose-fill vermiculite insulation.
Asbestos is made up of microscopic bundles of fibres that can become airborne when the asbestos-containing materials are damaged or disturbed. When these fibres get into the air they may be inhaled into the lungs, where they can cause significant health problems. Prolonged exposure to high levels of asbestos fibres has been link to diseases such as lung cancer, mesothelioma or asbestosis.
In an effort to limit people’s exposure to asbestos the Ontario Ministry of Labour’s, Occupation Health and Safety Act, has listed asbestos as one of 11 “Designated Substances” (Other products on this list include lead, arsenic and mercury), with specific procedures regarding the use, handling and disposal of these products.
For buildings suspected to contain asbestos an initial Designated Substance Survey is performed by a certified inspector, to identify the location and condition of the asbestos. If the building is found to contain asbestos an Asbestos Management Plan is prepared, which involves inspecting the condition of the asbestos on a regular basis (at least annually) and, if necessary, recommending repair or removal.
If you suspect your home or office may contain asbestos or any other Designated Substance, it is recommended have an experienced consultant inspect and analyze any suspected products.
Something to ponder: While the use of asbestos in Canada today is very limited, more than 240,000 tonnes of asbestos is mined each year in Quebec, making Canada the fourth largest exporter of asbestos in the world. The main destinations for Canadian asbestos are countries such as India and Pakistan, where safety regulations surrounding asbestos handling and use are either sparse or non-existent.