Congratulations Canada, You have now joined the rest of the developed world! Last week Canadian parliament finally adopted legislation that has banned the use of all asbestos containing materials. Why? Well if you ask Justin Trudeau he might say something like, “Because it’s 2016”. While I joke about it, it’s not a laughing matter. I was listening to the radio on a recent trip to Calgary, and they had a government official on, and she was giving the stats on the number of people exposed to asbestos in the work place every year, the numbers were staggering. By government estimates, 150,000 Canadians are exposed to asbestos every year through their work, this number does not account for the thousands of people that do their own home renovations and unknowingly expose themselves and their loved ones to asbestos. Please take the time and listen to this segment on asbestos, and asbestos related diseases. https://omny.fm/shows/danielle-smith/full-show-xenophobic-legislature-exchange-russia-h You will have to fast forward to the 42 minute mark. It’s worth a listen.
When I first started in the restoration business only a decade ago, nobody seemed concerned with asbestos. To be honest, I think nobody really knew about asbestos and the risks associated with exposure to asbestos.
I remember the first time I encountered vermiculite. It was in an old farm house that had an issue with ice damming. We had to pull down the ceiling to dry the structural supports. This really cool looking sand-like stuff started falling down. It looked like tiny rocks but had hardly any weight to it. We would never had known that we were exposed to asbestos except that the farmer had left the bag for the vermiculite in the attic with the insulation. It read, “Contains asbestos, extreme health hazard”.
After that incident, several of us decided that we wouldn’t do any more work until we were educated to the risks of asbestos. The things I didn’t realize blew my mind. There are over 2000 building products that use asbestos in them. Although the government knew the health hazards of asbestos, it wasn’t banned until 1985. This means that a huge portion of the population is living with asbestos containing materials in their home and probably don’t know it. While many of these products pose no risk to the inhabitants, as it only dangerous once it is disturbed, there are older homes all across Canada that are coming due for much needed renovations.
For all you do-it-yourselfers out there, let this be a warning: According to Stats Canada, asbestos exposure-related diseases are now the number one workplace killer in Canada. More than the next three causes combined. Asbestos has killed more than 5000 Canadians since 1995, and the numbers are still on the rise. Asbestos is a ghost killer. You can’t see it, or smell it. There aren’t any immediate signs of exposure. In fact, it usually takes 10-20 years for symptoms of asbestosis or mesothelioma to develop.
The lesson we all need to take away from this is, the health risks to you and your family aren’t worth the money that you save by not having professionals ensure your home is safe from such a dangerous product. I have two young girls at home, I wouldn’t think of exposing them to a known carcinogen that would shorten their lives dramatically. The key to lowering the number of asbestos deaths in Canada is awareness. And now you know.
Starting way back in the 1920s and running all the way through until the early 1990s, there was an insulation product that was used in homes and businesses across North America called vermiculite insulation. This type of insulation was being used in most homes and commercial buildings because of its fire resistant properties and superior insulation properties. The downside though is that vermiculite has the propensity to release asbestos fibers if it is heated or agitated.
How do I find out if the vermiculite insulation in my house contains asbestos?
You can have a sample of the insulation collected by our team at got mold?™ for testing. You should not do this yourself as it is important to have someone who is experienced in conducting asbestos hazard assessments to ensure property health and safety practices are followed.
What happens if the insulation does contain asbestos?
It has to be removed. This type of abatement is a high risk asbestos abatement that requires OH&S notice of project, which is 14 days’ minimum notice to OH&S before project commences. A third party consultant is required to provide daily air monitoring, containment pre-inspection, final visual clearance sampling, final air clearance sampling and final report as required by law for High risk asbestos abatement.
3 stage containment with temporary shower including HEPA negative air filtration must be set up to prevent any cross contamination during abatement. All vermiculite and insulation is to be double bagged in yellow asbestos bags, the bags are to be washed and removed through shower/chambers. After all ACM vermiculite is removed the entire containment must undergo a thorough final cleaning HEPA vacuuming/wet wiping followed by visual inspection by consultant. After visual is cleared, entire containment will be sprayed down with fiber lock asbestos glue before final air clearance testing commences and containment is fully cleared for demobilizing.
Should I be worried about my health if I have vermiculite insulation in my house?
As stated in a WorkSafe Bulletin, “Asbestos in vermiculite insulation is only a health hazard if the vermiculite is disturbed and the asbestos becomes airborne. There is no real risk if the vermiculite is sealed behind walls or isolated in an attic. However, inhalation of asbestos fibres can cause mesothelioma (a fatal cancer of the lining of the lungs or other organs), lung cancer, or asbestosis (a permanent scarring of the lungs that restricts breathing).”
Other Vermiculite Insulation Resources
Asbestosis is a harmful lung condition that is developed in people who have inhaled asbestos dust and fibres. When someone inhales the dust, the microscopic asbestos fibres settle in the lungs, where they may cause permanent lung damage as well as chronic breathing symptoms. The fibres aren’t able to release themselves from the organs inside as they are sharp tiny shards that stick to your lungs for a lifetime.
One of the unusual things about asbestosis is the long wait between asbestos exposure and the resulting illness. For many people they may have been exposed to it at one particular time in their lives or careers and were not diagnosed until 15-30 years later. It does not show up in any kind of test results immediately.
Once someone develops asbestosis, no cures are currently available. Breathing problems will get steadily worse, and in about 15% of people, severe shortness of breath and respiratory failure develop. For someone who smokes and has had asbestos exposure, there is a greatly increased chance of developing lung cancer. Symptoms may appear within 10 years of the initial exposure. OH&S has recommended testing in homes built up to the year 2000 now as asbestos is being found in buildings built even in the 1990’s.
Lung transplantation is the only way to manage end-stage asbestos lung disease, and most people who need it are not eligible candidates because of their advanced age or due to other medical problems.
Worsening in your breathing occurs as asbestosis progresses. Cough, sputum production, and wheezing are less common and are generally associated with smoking. You may display what is known as clubbing of the fingertips (they thicken and enlarge), or develop a blue colour under your nails and a bluish tinge around your mouth.
Even brief exposure to asbestos at some time in the past will dramatically increase the risk of developing lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma (a rare, fatal cancer of the lining of organs such as the lungs, abdomen, and chest).
Some research has also shown that asbestos causes an increased risk of developing cancers of the esophagus, stomach, intestines, and rectum. This may be related to the swallowing of asbestos fibres that were inhaled and then coughed up from the lungs. If you are a smoker who has been exposed to asbestos over the long term, your likelihood of developing lung cancer is greatly increased. It appears that there is a “dose-response relationship” between asbestos exposure, smoking, and lung cancer: the greater the exposure to both asbestos and cigarette smoke, the higher the risk of cancer. It’s already proven the health risks of smoking and the links to cancer but the chances increase 80% when exposed to asbestos. Researches at the University of Michigan believe that it is from tar build up in the lungs and holding the fibres in place, then coughing up the fibres to be spread throughout the body.
When customers call got mold? to have a mold or asbestos inspections and sampling, we take great pride in giving our customers fast and accurate reports so they can get the work done ASAP. The health of our customers is our number one priority and we want our customers to know that your health is important to us! We thrive on having happy and healthy customers that have healthy indoor air for their families or business. When you call got mold? our environmental professionals will assist you with the best coarse of action to take when it comes to the removal process, and what should happen with the contents surrounding the effected areas.
Sometimes circumstances require that results of sampling is an urgent matter. This is why we deal with only accredited laboratories that have microbiologists analyze the samples. If there are any questions or clarification is required we are in direct contact with the Principal Microbiologist Dr. Jackson Kung’u.