Asbestos and Hazardous Materials in Households

Asbestos fibres in the home

What are the dangerous materials in a house?

In the 20th century, a variety of unsafe/unhealthy materials were regularly used as additives in the manufacturing process for common household goods and products. As a result, there are now quite a few hazardous materials in homes that should be properly encapsulated, treated, or removed.  Lead paint used to cover the walls of nurseries, mercury-filled thermometers and asbestos was added to many consumer items – from toys and appliances to the drywall mud used on our walls. Of these hazards, asbestos typically poses the biggest threat as it is the most likely to be readily encountered in the home.

But what is asbestos, why is it dangerous, and how is it removed?

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is an umbrella term referring to six silicate minerals. Because of it’s naturally occurring properties – sound absorption, tensile strength and fire resistance – it became widely used in consumer products in the 19th and 20th century. These production practices were used prior to the medical and scientific communities discovering asbestos was in fact a hazardous material. Unfortunately, the damage was done and many of these products containing asbestos remain in buildings today.

Why is asbestos dangerous/hazardous?

If asbestos fibres are inhaled, they can induce lung disease (Asbestosis), lung cancer (Mesothelioma) and other severe and deadly illnesses. The fibres are microscopic and the ensuing illnesses are non-reversible/non-treatable.

The true hazard lies in the fact these unknowingly dangerous fibres began entering homes and buildings in the form of consumer products and construction materials (Examples such as insulation, tiles, textiles, cloth products, appliances).

So, if your home was built before 1980, there is a reasonable chance there is asbestos lurking within the walls – perhaps literally.

The concern with asbestos starts when these containing products are disturbed, thereby releasing small particles into the air of a home where they can be inhaled without notice.

This trouble most commonly presents itself when homeowners choose to undertake renovations and proceed while being unaware of the potential risks they are exposing themselves to.

How is asbestos removed?

The safest course of action is to call a professional asbestos removal agency. Once they arrive, occupants of the building are asked to leave depending on exposure levels. The containing site is sealed off, often with polyethylene film and devices that create negative air pressure are used to prevent the spread of toxic fibres. Any asbestos contaminants are then carefully bagged and safely removed from the job site.

Specially-designed vacuums made for the purpose of asbestos removal are then used to ensure no risks remain in the home. These vacuums have a filter known as a HEPA filter. Regular vacuum cleaners are not safe for asbestos removal no matter what kind of filters are attached to it. Asbestos removal workers wear respirator masks and full-body protection to avoid contact with and inhalation of the toxic fibres. The waste is then taken to approved landfills where it can safely be disposed of.

Historically, Canada has been among the top three producers of asbestos, however, as of 2018, asbestos production has become banned. Even so, Vancouver has a fair risk of asbestos contamination due to heavy use during the 20th century, so be sure to keep an eye out in your homes and workplaces.

Please don’t hesitate to call us if you have questions about asbestos or any other potentially hazardous materials in homes where you live or visit.

Progressive Asbestos Solutions