Asbestos is a natural mineral with unusual qualities; it is strong enough to resist high temperatures, chemical attack and wear. A poor conductor, it insulates well against heat and electricity. Asbestos crystals become long, flexible, silky fibres, so it can be made into a wide variety of forms. It can be spun into yarn, woven into cloth or braided into rope. Asbestos can also be added to materials as diverse as cotton and cement. This combination of properties makes asbestos’s performance hard to match.
The History of Asbestos
Asbestos has been used in hundreds if not thousands of applications and products over 4500 years. The Greeks wove it for oil lamp wicks, funeral shrouds and ceremonial tablecloths. In the 1800’s, it was used to insulate the engines, boilers and piping of the industrial revolution. From the 1930’s to the 1980’s, it was used as fire insulation and piping insulation in offices, schools and other buildings. It has also been used in transportation and appliances, typically mixed with or in other materials.
The Dangers of Asbestos
Asbestos use declined in the 1980’s due to awareness of the hazards associated with breathing in the fibres and a lot of the older installations of asbestos were abated. It is still used today but with advancements in technology it is better encapsulated so that the fibres don’t escape as readily. Health Canada states that asbestos only poses a health risk when fibres are released into the air that people breathe. The fibres lodge in the lungs and scar them leading to asbestosis or cancer of the lungs.
People often put themselves at risk without even knowing it, for instance when they do repairs or renovations.
Some common situations are:
- Disturbing vermiculite insulation which may contain asbestos
- Removing roof shingles or siding that contains asbestos
- Sanding plaster that contains asbestos
- Sanding/scraping vinyl floor tiles that contain asbestos
- Removing old asbestos insulation from hot water tanks or boilers
- Removing acoustical tiles that contain asbestos from ceilings
- These are a few situations that homeowners will tackle themselves, putting themselves at risk without knowing.
- If asbestos is suspected contact an experienced contractor to evaluate the situation. Making sure that the contractor is capable of removing the asbestos in a safe manner.
WCB has specific regulations regarding the removal of asbestos, which Smart Choice always follows.