Asbestos is a natural mineral fiber that has been used for many years. It was popular because it was inexpensive and easy to work with. But, as more research came out about the dangers of asbestos, its popularity declined.
In this ultimate guide on asbestos removal in Calgary, we will explore some of the risks associated with asbestos exposure and how you can remove it from your home or business safely!
What Is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that has been mined from the earth for thousands of years. It was popularized because of its strength, affordability, and ease of work. In fact, asbestos can be woven into fabric or mixed with other materials to make them stronger! These strong materials were used in the construction of many homes and buildings across North America for decades.
Asbestos exposure has been documented as far back as ancient Greece, but it wasn't until much more recently that its dangers were recognized. In fact, asbestos manufacturers denied any connection between exposure and health problems like lung cancer or mesothelioma (a type of cancer that affects the cells inside of the lungs) for decades.
However, as more research came out about the dangers associated with asbestos exposure, its popularity declined. Asbestos is made from long, thin fibers that can be broken apart and become airborne. When these fibers are inhaled or swallowed, they can begin to cause damage to the lungs and digestive system.
Asbestos in Calgary Homes and Buildings
Three different types of asbestos can be found in homes and buildings across Canada: Blue Asbestos, Brown Asbestos, and White Asbestos.
These forms were most commonly used for construction purposes due to their affordability! The dangers associated with exposure to these materials became more apparent over time.
Asbestos was phased out in the 80s, but it can still be found today on certain homes or buildings that were built before this date! If you are unsure if your home contains asbestos materials, you must contact an asbestos remediation company right away.
As a general rule if your home was built,
- Before the 1980's - a very high likelihood of asbestos-containing materials.
- Build between the 1980's and 1990's - high likelihood of asbestos-containing materials.
- Built after the 1990's - unlikely there are asbestos-contains materials.
Asbestos removal is necessary if:
- The material contains more than one percent asbestos
- The material is in poor condition
- It may crumble or flake easily
- If the asbestos insulation has become damaged over the years. This can happen when rodents chew through it! Asbestos removal can be completed by a qualified professional who will ensure that all of the materials are disposed of properly. You should never attempt to complete the removal process on your own!
Types Of Asbestos In Calgary, AB
There are six different types of asbestos generally found in Alberta! These include chrysotile (white), amosite (brown/grey), crocidolite (blue) and anthophyllite, tremolite, and actinolite. Each type is unique in color, texture, and durability.
Chrysotile asbestos is the most commonly used type across North America! This type of asbestos was once a popular choice for insulation materials including spray-on fireproofing/insulation and vinyl floor tiles. Because it has been found to cause cancer when inhaled over time, homeowners should not attempt to remove or disturb any existing material containing this type of asbestos.
Amosite asbestos is the most common for building materials in Canada! This includes products such as brake pads, gaskets, and cement pipes/shower stalls. Amosite fibers are also used heavily near power plants where they are mixed with cement to create heat-resistant products.
Crocidolite asbestos is the most common in Western Canada! This type of fiber was used heavily as insulation near power plants and by oil refineries which may still contain some materials containing it today. Because this type has been linked to mesothelioma cancer, homeowners should not attempt to remove or disturb any existing material containing this type of asbestos.
Tremolite and actinolite are generally found as contaminants in other types of fiber! They were once used occasionally for insulation purposes but this is very rare today. For example, tremolite was often mixed with chrysotile to create a more flexible product. Actinolite, however, has only been found in a few samples of insulation materials.
anthophyllite and actinolite asbestos is rarely found in Calgary! These types of asbestos are generally only used as insulation and have been found at a few power plants.
WHERE ASBESTOS MAY BE FOUND IN A TYPICAL HOME:
Most of the asbestos-containing products used in houses were bonded as cement materials, including:
- Floor tiles
- Roofing shingles
- Wallboard (also known as drywall)
- Toilet partitions
Some friable asbestos products may also be found in houses, including:
- Sheets, or mats of asbestos cement
- Felt sheets used for under-floor insulation.
- Vinyl asbestos floor tiles, often found in older kitchens and bathrooms.
- low-density asbestos fibreboard
- insulation on hot-water pipes
- backing material on floor tiles and vinyl flooring
- brick and plaster sealants
Asbestos was also used as a heat insulator, including:
- Pipes and flues for heating appliances.
- Furnace room walls and ceilings
- Hot water tanks (until 1975)
Identifying Asbestos-Containing Materials
Asbestos-containing materials can be identified as:
- If the material is painted, it may have a bumpy texture
- If the material has asbestos cement components - it will feel rough and gritty. You can also perform a fingernail test! Poke your nail into the potential asbestos-containing surface to see if fibers break off. If they do, it is likely asbestos!
- If the material is putty or filler - it will usually appear yellowish in color and have a chalky texture.
If you think your home may contain asbestos, don't panic! It's important to note that not all materials containing asbestos are dangerous if left alone. However, if you choose to remove them, you should always hire a qualified professional who will ensure that all of the materials are disposed of properly. You should never attempt to complete this process on your own!
The health effects of asbestos exposure are well documented. Lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis are all known to be caused by asbestos exposure.
Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that affects the cells inside the lungs. Asbestos causes scarring in these tissues leading them to allow tumors to develop! Symptoms can include shortness of breath, fatigue, or coughing up blood.
Lung cancer has many risk factors including genetic predisposition, lifestyle choices, and environmental exposures. Having a family history of lung cancer can increase your risk as well! If you smoke and are exposed to asbestos simultaneously the risk is even higher than individuals who do not have these risks factors.
Asbestosis is a chronic lung condition that causes shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing! It occurs when asbestos fibers are inhaled into the lungs causing inflammation. Although there are treatments available to manage this condition, it can lead to disability or death if left untreated.
Pleural plaques are a condition that causes scarring in the lungs. It occurs when your body reacts to asbestos exposure, resulting in the thickening of lung tissue and the buildup of fluid between the layers surrounding the lungs! If you suffer from pleural plaques this can lead to serious health concerns including shortness of breath, chest pain, or coughing up blood!
Fibrosis is a serious lung condition that causes scarring in the lungs. It occurs when your body reacts to asbestos exposure, resulting in the thickening of lung tissue and the buildup of fluid between the layers surrounding the lungs! If you suffer from pleural plaques this can lead to serious health concerns including shortness of breath, chest pain, or coughing up blood!
The best way to protect yourself from exposure is by preventing it completely! For example, smoking around asbestos materials can increase your exposure to harmful toxins. Smoking combined with asbestos exposure is a known risk factor for many types of lung cancer including small cell carcinoma and non-small cell carcinoma!
Risk Factors For Developing Asbestos-Related Illness
Asbestos-related disease risk increases proportionately to the number of asbestos fibers one breathes in during their life. The more often you breathe these fibers, the higher your chance is of developing an asbestos-related illness.
The higher the concentration of asbestos fibers you inhale, the greater your risk is. For example, those who work directly with asbestos materials such as construction workers and plumbers pose a higher risk than someone who does not come into contact with it daily!
People exposed to high concentrations of asbestos over time are at an increased risk for developing one or more asbestos-related diseases. For example: if you are exposed to high levels of asbestos daily for over ten years your chance of developing an illness is greater than someone who was not exposed at all or only briefly!
People with less healthy lifestyles pose an increased risk for asbestos-related illnesses. This includes individuals who have smoked cigarettes, used chewing tobacco, or lived with smokers.
Individuals living in the same household as someone exposed to asbestos materials are also at an increased risk of developing serious asbestos-related diseases! This is because they may be unintentionally exposed by breathing in fibers left behind by their loved one who works directly with them daily.
Asbestos is especially dangerous for children because their bodies are still growing and developing. Children's immune systems are also not yet fully developed, which makes them more susceptible to the harmful effects of asbestos fibers.
When Is Asbestos Exposure Likely Happen?
Scenarios of how homeowners can expose themselves to asbestos at home include DIY renovation, drilling through drywall, or replacing an old pipe.
Attic renovation is a perfect way for homeowners to become exposed. Not only can they easily inhale asbestos fibers during the process, but these same fibers are commonly found in insulation materials! Builders and construction workers are on the list occupations at high risk for asbestos exposure
Replacing old pipes around your home is another common scenario where individuals might be exposed. If you choose not to replace them yourself make sure to hire a reliable asbestos removal company to do it for you!
Replacing old electrical wires is another common scenario where individuals might be exposed. If you choose not to replace them yourself make sure to hire a reliable asbestos removal contractor before starting your project!
- Drilling into drywall
- Removing vinyl floor tiles
- Popcorn ceiling removal
- Cutting the insulation on pipes
Steps To Reduce Your Risk of Of Asbestos Exposure
Steps to reduce your risk of exposure include:
- staying away from areas that you know contain asbestos materials
- wearing a protective mask when in contact with or around it
- staying away from smokers who work directly with the material daily!
If you are concerned about asbestos in your home, it's best to consult a professional. They will be able to help you determine if there is any around and remove any that may pose a risk!
How Do Professionals Remove Asbestos?
Asbestos removal is a lengthy process that requires specific training and equipment to ensure safety. Professionals use wet methods or dry methods of abatement to remove asbestos materials!
Wet Asbestos Removal
This method involves using water mixed with an adhesive substance that attaches the fibers so they can more easily be removed without creating dust particles in the air or on surfaces.
Dry Asbestos Removal
This method involves sealing the asbestos material in plastic sheeting to prevent any release of harmful fibers into the air! After it is contained, it is removed using non-powered methods such as scraping and vacuuming up small pieces before removing larger ones with industrial equipment like saws, drills, and chisels.
Cleaning Up After Asbestos Removal
Cleaning up after asbestos removal is the final and most crucial step to ensuring that you remain safe. This includes not only vacuuming but also wiping down surfaces with a damp cloth to remove any remaining fibers! Once it has been removed, it's best to seal off or encapsulate the area so no one else is exposed in the future!
Packaging and disposal of asbestos material
Only certified companies with proper training should handle asbestos removal! They are required to package and dispose of asbestos materials per local, provincial, or national laws.
Asbestos is very dangerous if it's not handled correctly! If you suspect that there may be any remaining around your home after the removal process has been completed contact a professional immediately for further inspection.
Assessing Your Risk and Preventing Exposure
Asbestos is a serious risk that should not be taken lightly! If you suspect any presence of it in your home or workplace, do not take any chances! Contact a professional for asbestos testing and to remove the material properly.
If you are interested in learning more about the ultimate guide to asbestos and its removal, contact us today for a free quote on our services! We have years of experience helping individuals with this dangerous material so don't hesitate to give us a
If you have been exposed in the past or are concerned about your risk it's best to be proactive rather than wait until something bad happens. Speak with your doctor about whether or not regular screening is right for you.