Asbestos

What is Asbestos, when was it used and why?

Asbestos is a mineral in which there are a set of six forms, all produce naturally occurring silicate materials and all have in common a thin fibrous crystal like mineral found within soil and various rock types. It was initially used over 4000 years ago to make such items as pots and pans in some European countries. Then, in the early 1900’s it was largely mined for use in manufacturing and building as the properties of asbestos was desired for many different and varied uses. It was used extensively in building materials because it was resistant to heat, fire, chemical, and biological break-down. These properties meant that asbestos fibres do not burn, do not undergo significant reactions with most chemicals, and do not break down significantly in the environment.

Still today, there are many residential homes, commercial and industrial buildings built prior to 1990 that have asbestos containing materials in them. Finally, in 2017 asbestos was officially prohibited from any use within Canada.

What is the impact of asbestos and potential health risks?

All types of asbestos fibers are known to cause serious health hazards and are considered dangerous. One category of concern with asbestos is if it is a friable material, which means that when it is dry, it can be crumbled, pulverized or powdered by hand pressure. When asbestos containing materials are disturbed, asbestos fibers can become dislodged and released into the air. When this happens asbestos exposure can occur and you become at risk of inhaling airborne asbestos fibers.

The most common types of health effects from asbestos exposure

Asbestosis and Mesothelioma are lung diseases that impact the lining of the chest cavity (pleura) which can lead to reduced respiratory function and cause death. Both have been detected in people who were occupationally exposed to one of the common forms of asbestos; chrysotile.

All disease and conditions caused by measurable exposure to asbestos will over time cause death, and the average latency period is approximately 20-40 years.

It is important for everyone to do their part and test suspect building materials for asbestos prior to demolition or renovation to prevent unnecessary exposure and contamination.

What am I looking for when dealing with asbestos containing materials?

Friable vs non-friable asbestos

Asbestos-containing materials fall into two general categories;

Friable

Friable material, which means that when it is dry, it can be crumbled, pulverized or powdered by hand. These materials in this state will release asbestos fibres into the air and subsequently once inhaled can cause asbestos exposure.

Some examples of friable asbestos-containing materials include but not limited are; drywall joint compounds, vermiculite, sprayed asbestos fire retardants, thermal lagging; such as pipe insulation, donnacona board and sheet vinyl (linoleum) underlay or backing, just to name a few.

Non-friable

Bonded asbestos is used to refer to asbestos-containing materials in which the asbestos is firmly bound into the matrix of the material. These materials are unlikely to release any quantifiable levels of asbestos fibre into the air if left undisturbed. Non-friable materials generally pose a lower risk to health. Some examples of non-friable bonded asbestos-containing materials include but not limited are; asbestos cement products (flat and corrugated sheeting used in wall, ceiling and roof systems, as well as rain leaders) vinyl floor tiles (however removal of the glue can be classed as friable)

Is it safe for me to take asbestos samples myself?

Prior to renovation or demolition, industrial/commercial building owners, or management companies are required by WorkSafeBC to hire a business with qualified individual(s) to collect and submit samples for testing and provide a Risk Assessment for their work.

Home owners who do their own renovations are not required by WorkSafeBC to hire a qualified individual to collect and submit samples for testing, however we highly advise home owners to have a Pre-Renovation/Demolition Hazardous Material Survey completed by a qualified professional to ensure the health and safety for themselves and their family.

Feeling Safe:

We are available to answer any questions you may have regarding hazardous materials and we are here to help you with the safety of your project(s).

What is Vermiculite and does it contain asbestos?

Vermiculite is a type of mineral that was used as insulation and is usually found within attics and wall cavities and somewhat resembles cat litter. Most vermiculite contains asbestos and requires laboratory analysis to confirm this.

The WorkSafe BC regulation defines asbestos containing material (ACM) as containing 0.5% or greater asbestos by weight. An exception to this rule is made for vermiculite containing insulation materials, which are considered asbestos containing even if it’s below 0.5% asbestos by weight. This is due to the more hazardous type of asbestos typically found in vermiculite; Tremolite.

How much will testing cost?

Testing costs are based on the severity of the problem and requirements of the work process used in our inspection. Give us a call and we will gladly consult with you on this.

Which areas do you service?

Our service areas extend throughout the Lower Mainland, including the Fraser Valley to Hope. We also provide service to the Whistler area.

I have some more questions, can I contact you?

Please do, we are happy to answer any questions you may have.

Lead

Why was lead used in various construction materials?

Lead is a heavy metal that has seen use throughout early history, now in modern times it has been used extensively in construction and consumer products. Two common consumer materials lead was used in, was paint and ceramic tiles. In paints it was used to assist it in drying quickly, it was more resistant to wear and it made colours more vibrant. Lead was also used in paints to provide a high-quality, durable protective coating. The amount and type of lead used in paints depended on what they were being applied to. Lead was also used in the coatings of ceramic tile floors for the same reasons as above and to this day is still found in many ceramic floor tiles.

However, the amounts of lead used do varies in different types of ceramic tiles and we have discovered through testing that some varnishes on hardwood floors can contain lead as well. The properties of lead combined with its relative abundance and low cost resulted in widespread use throughout time.

Should I test for lead in my home?

Homes built before 1960 were likely painted with lead-based paint. Although the use of lead has been more common in exterior than interior paint since the 1950’s, it wasn’t until 1991 that Canadian legislation was passed that limited manufacturers’ lead content in interior and exterior paints. That being said, we have also discovered paints and ceramic tiles that contain elevated levels of lead in newly built homes as well.

Lead-based paint exposure most commonly occurs during demolition or renovation when lead dust is created without the proper control measures being taken. Exposure among adults, children and pets can result in numerous health complications, including; nerve disorders, joint and muscle pain, blood pressure problems, trouble with concentration and memory, although it’s uncommon, there are cases documented where continued lead exposure has been fatal.

What about workers and lead?

Workers that are exposed to lead on a regular basis should have blood work done to ensure their levels are within safe and acceptable limits.

What are the health risks concerning lead?

It is important to know that there are varying degrees of risks when dealing with lead, especially when it involves children, pregnant women, individuals that work around it often and of course to everyone in general. Lead is a highly poisonous heavy metal and dangerous to humans and animals, how serious the impact is dependant on the amount of exposure.

How does lead enter the body?

The two common routes of entry from lead exposure are;

Ingestion and inhalation (exposure through skin absorption can occur, although it is rare).

Lead can cause a myriad of health ailments if not detected, as it acts as a neurotoxin, damaging the central nervous system. It accumulates in the body, and is stored in the skeletal system and soft tissues. Lead toxicity can also damage the kidneys and brain and can be fatal if not treated in time. One of the main concerns of exposure for children is the ingestion of applied lead based paint as it chips and flakes off over time. We have all heard stories of children ingesting and chewing paint chips on old window sills, walls and other building materials in the home. Generally, as applied dry paint deteriorates it peels and can be pulverized into dust which then enters the body through your hand to mouth. It can contaminate your food, beverages and other easily accessible items.

Lead poisoning can occur in a child while the child is crawling or playing on a contaminated surface and subsequently ingest or inhale harmful lead dust. Due to this, children are most susceptible to lead poisoning because their developing brain and central nervous system are especially vulnerable to the toxicity of lead. If you have a pet, consider the dangers involved when they are within the contaminated area.

How can I confirm if there are hazardous levels of lead in my home?

Prior to any renovation or demolition work, industrial/commercial building owners or management companies are required by WorkSafeBC to hire a qualified individual(s) to collect and submit samples for testing and provide a Risk Assessment for any hazardous material abatement work.

Home owners who perform their own renovations are not required by law to collect and submit samples for testing, however the waste material must be properly tested to ensure appropriate disposal. We highly advise home owners to have a Pre-Renovation Hazardous Material Survey completed by a qualified individual to ensure the health and safety of themselves, their family members and our environment.

We encourage you to call us with any questions you may have prior to beginning renovation or demolition work on your property and we will be happy to assist you with your project needs.

How much will testing cost?

Testing costs are based on the severity of the problem and requirements of the work process used in our inspection. Give us a call and we will gladly consult with you on this.

Which areas do you service?

Our service areas extend throughout the Lower Mainland, including the Fraser Valley to Hope. We also provide service to the Whistler area.

I have some more questions, can I contact you?

Please do, we are happy to answer any questions you may have.

Mold

What is mold?

Molds are fungi that can grow quickly on almost any damp material. At the same time that we view its presence within a building as a negative impact, it is essential to the earth’s ecosystem and mold spores are everywhere. Mold reproduces and releases airborne spores that are invisible to the naked eye. As mold grows and releases airborne spores there are fragments of hyphae (filaments) that can be inhaled and cause negative health effects. People with allergies, asthma, or weakened immune systems are most at risk.

How can mold impact my health?

The health effects of mold exposure can vary greatly in people. Most people are continuously exposed to different types of molds through ingestion and inhalation with no apparent health effects. However, certain types and quantities of molds have been known to cause severe health effects, hypersensitivity, and infections. Children, the elderly and individuals with compromised immune systems are the most vulnerable to adverse health effects from mold exposure. However, even healthy persons may experience adverse health effects when exposed to high concentrations of mold.

Mold can also cause any of the following symptoms:

  • allergic reactions
  • asthma
  • pneumonitis
  • infections of the upper airway
  • sinusitis
  • chronic headaches
  • wheezing or coughing

Why do I have mold growing?

If you have the right conditions such as; an organic material, air, moisture and oxygen, then mold can grow. When mold is present you have moisture somewhere within the premises and eliminating the source of the moisture is to stop and prevent the regrowth of mold where it is present.

How can I confirm the presence of mold?

Airborne mold testing can be performed to determine the type and approximate concentration of mold in the air. While conducting mold inspections, one of our goals is to identify whether or not the mold is allergenic, pathogenic, or toxigenic. It will also assist us as to the location of the mold source.

How much will testing cost?

Testing costs are based on the severity of the problem and requirements of the work process used in our inspection. Give us a call and we will gladly consult with you on this.

Which areas do you service?

Our service areas extend throughout the Lower Mainland, including the Fraser Valley to Hope. We also provide service to the Whistler area.

I have some more questions, can I contact you?

Please do, we are happy to answer any questions you may have.

Did you know?

In the old classic 1939 film version of The Wizard of Oz, there was a scene in which Dorothy, the scarecrow, the lion and the tinman were all placed under a sleeping spell by the Wicked Witch, then Glenda the good witch came and bestowed them with snow to wake them up in a poppy field.

Another classic film of that era was Holiday Inn starring Bing Crosby and in the final scene it depicts snow falling all around as Bing sang White Christmas.

The snow effects in both films were in fact created by asbestos containing materials that showered the cast with chrysotile asbestos fibres! The type of asbestos material used resembled snow and was often used not only on movie sets and in theatres but in department stores and in private homes. From the mid-1930s through to the 1950s, asbestos was seen as a very versatile product and thought of as a harmless substance, it was also very inexpensive which in turn made it a desirable product.

Did you know?

Some of asbestos’s uses in the past include the following:

An old brand of toothpaste used to contain asbestos to help abrasion on the teeth

It was used as Insulation for rocket engines on space shuttles

Asbestos has been used in cigarette filters

Wall paper & paper lining

Heart & lung surgeons used asbestos thread to close incisions

Old hood style hair dryers contained a layer of asbestos inside the hood to stop customers getting burnt as did ironing boards

Did you know?

Lead is a chemical element with Pb as its symbol on the periodic table and is derived from the Latin word “plumbum”.

In 2014, the annual global production of lead was approximately 8 – 10 million tonnes, which over half of it was from recycling and increasing yearly.

Lead has been used by ancient civilizations for thousands of years, and is mentioned in the second book of the Old Testament.

Lead has a long history in alchemy, since many alchemists believed lead could be turned into gold. In the ancient Rome era it became well known that lead could be found in silver ores and was extracted from it.

There are still some lead pipes in use today on the baths that have the official insignia of the Roman emperor.

Lead is one of the toxic elements whose poisonous properties were discovered by early civilizations, and lead poisoning has been documented in ancient writings from the Greeks, Romans, and Chinese.

It is very dense, malleable and resistant to corrosion, which made it ideal for the manufacturing of pipes.

Did you know?

Mold is an important and helpful part of the outdoor environment. Mold has the ability to break down or what it comes in contact with; just as penicillin kills the bacteria that crosses its path to help us when in need. Mold also helps to break down decaying organic matter, such as plants, dead leaves and wood.

Amazingly, mold exists nearly everywhere on the planet and every home has mold spores in it somewhere.

Mold can devalue a home and it can be costly to deal with if left undealt with.

There are approximately 100,000 species of identified mold, and an estimated 1.5 million types of mold in total.

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