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Asbestos: Facts You Should Know About This Dangerous Substance

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You might think that asbestos exposure was more of an issue decades ago, before it was known how harmful it is to our health. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Currently, 125 million people worldwide are exposed to asbestos at their job, and millions more exposed daily.

It’s estimated that 50% of occupation-related deaths are caused by asbestos.

We’re almost positive that you’ve heard of asbestos before, but do you know exactly what it is? Or what it can do to our bodies if we’re exposed?

Since asbestos is found in many different products and involved in many occupations, it’s important to understand the serious health risks associated with it. Keep reading to learn what asbestos is, and what you can do to avoid exposure.

What Is Asbestos?

Asbestos isn’t just one thing. It refers to a combination of 6 mineral components that combine to form fiber bundles. These bundles have been, and still are, used in a number of industrial applications.

Where Is Asbestos Used?

Since asbestos is resistant to heat, chemicals, fire, and other harsh elements, it’s often used in places where these things are common. This includes:

  • Building/construction
  • Insulation
  • Roofing
  • Shipbuilding
  • Automotive industry
  • Plastics
  • Tiling/ceilings

These are by no means all of the places where asbestos is used. But from just these few examples, you can see how asbestos can essentially be found anywhere and permeates many aspects of our society.

While many governments now ban the use of asbestos in buildings and other applications, older buildings, cars, and products still contain asbestos.

You Can Still Be Exposed to Asbestos

Like we just said, you can still be exposed to asbestos on a day to day basis. It’s not rare, either. It’s estimated that around 240,000 Canadian homes could still contain asbestos.

Even though new homes and buildings aren’t being made with asbestos, the risk of exposure is still high.

What Can Asbestos Exposure Lead To?

For all this talk about exposure, we haven’t really gone over the dangers of asbestos. The fact is that asbestos is a carcinogen, meaning it can (and often does) cause cancer.

There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos. Most carcinogens have a certain level that’s OK to be exposed to. For example, formaldehyde is a carcinogen, but it won’t cause cancer when you’re exposed at low levels.

Asbestos is always dangerous no matter how much or how long you’re exposed to it. In Canada, asbestos exposure is the number one cause of occupational death.

And while Canada does have laws regulating and banning asbestos for current day use, that doesn’t erase the fact that it’s already in many buildings and millions of Canadians have been exposed for years.

Most of the damage from asbestos will be in your lungs. When you’re exposed to asbestos, you inhale it and it goes directly to your lungs. It’s there where it will cause the most damage.

Asbestosis

Even if you don’t develop a serious illness from asbestos, you can experience a number of negative health effects. Some symptoms you could experience include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Dry cough
  • Chest tightness
  • Appetite loss

If you’re exposed for a long time, you can eventually develop asbestosis. Usually, you won’t notice these and other more serious symptoms until 20-30 years after you were exposed.

If you develop asbestosis, you can also experience deformities in your nails along with enlarged fingertips.

Diagnosing asbestosis will involve a few steps taken by your doctor. First, they’ll listen to your breathing to see if they identify any abnormal breath sounds that would indicate lung damage.

They’ll want to take a chest x-ray to examine your lungs as well. They might also want to perform tests to evaluate your lung function.

In the long term, this can cause chronic lung issues, and it can lead to fatal complications. You can’t cute asbestosis, but you can take steps to make breathing easier with inhalers or oxygen masks.

Cancer Risk

Perhaps the biggest risk of asbestos exposure is the huge risk of developing cancer.

Symptoms of lung cancer or other types of cancer caused by asbestos exposure (most often mesothelioma) won’t develop until years after the initial exposure. It can take 15-40 years after initial exposure to develop an illness.

The general symptoms to look out for include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Persistant cough
  • Chest pain/tightness/discomfort
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Weight loss/loss of appetite
  • Chronic lung infections

These symptoms mirror those for asbestosis, so you’ll need to get a doctor’s diagnosis to be sure.

Unfortunately, these symptoms don’t arise until the cancer reaches a later stage. The best way to avoid this is to have regular screening by your doctor, especially if you know that you’ve been exposed to asbestos.

How to Protect Yourself

After all of this scary information, you might be freaked out. The good news is that there are ways to protect yourself from asbestos exposure, even after you’ve been exposed.

If you know that you’ve been exposed to asbestos, especially in large doses over a long period of time, then you should have regular screenings and check-ups with your doctor. This way, you can catch any disease or cancer early, which will give you a better chance at recovery.

If you believe your home contains asbestos, there are ways to remove it. Home and buildings built before 1986 have a high chance of having asbestos. You should look into asbestos removal to make sure your home is safe to live in.

Important Asbestos Facts: Wrapping Up

Asbestos is a dangerous carcinogen that can cause serious illness. While you won’t see or develop symptoms right away, exposure is extremely serious and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Hopefully this article has helped you understand the dangers of asbestos a little more so you can take steps to avoid exposure and make your home safe.

If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to contact us. We can answer any questions you have about your home, asbestos removal, and more.

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When and Why You Should Get Asbestos Removal for Your Home

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Did you know that asbestos used to have the nickname “magic mineral?” After all, in its pure form, it can resist intense heat, chemicals couldn’t corrode it, and it’s a powerful insulator.

Impressive, right?

It turns out though, that its nickname should be “black magic mineral.” Because all these seemingly amazing properties come with a price:

The lives of about 2.1 individuals in every 100,000 Canadians every year. Mesothelioma, a type of asbestos-caused lung cancer, claimed the lives of 515 people in the country in 2010 alone.

These numbers show how crucial prompt asbestos removal is if the material is present in your home.

But how do you determine its presence? And why should you get professionals to remove it from your home?

Don’t worry, we’ll answer all these questions (and more). So, keep reading to learn more about asbestos abatement!

A Quick Overview of Canada’s Gold

Canada has a rich asbestos mining history. With large quantities found throughout Quebec, British Columbia, and Newfoundland, it’s no wonder why the Great White North considered it as “Canada’s Gold”.

It’s also for this reason that its use lasted up until the 1990s. Homes in the country built before the 90s feature many asbestos-containing materials, from shingles to insulation. Even other household products, like furnishings such as carpeting, also used asbestos.

The thing is, even when studies on the dangers of asbestos came out, the country continued mining the mineral and manufacturing products containing it. It was only in 2012 that the last asbestos mine in Canada closed.

After causing 1,900 cases of lung cancer and another 430 of mesothelioma in 2011, the government plans to have a complete asbestos ban in 2018.

More on the Dangers of Asbestos, According to Experts

The fact that health and medical expert organizations say that asbestos is a carcinogen should be enough for you to remove it from your home.

Carcinogens are substances that cause cancer (or supports its growth and development). According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), asbestos is one such substance. The organization classifies it as a human carcinogenic.

Aside from the above-mentioned mesothelioma, this mineral has also shown to cause cancers of the lung. It affects even the larynx and the ovaries.

Two other organizations from Canada’s neighboring nation the U.S. also categorize what was once known as The Great White North’s Gold as carcinogenic to people. These include the National Toxicology Program (NTP) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Are You Exposing Yourself to Asbestos?

Everyone will have some sort of asbestos exposure at some point in their life. That’s because the air, water, and soil around us contain it. The good news is that experts say there are only low levels of it.

In other words, you won’t get sick from this exposure. So, the question is, when does it become dangerous?

The life-threatening hazards start when you receive constant exposure to the asbestos fibers. Those who have jobs involving direct contact with the material take the most brunt of its health effects.

That’s why many workers in the construction, electrical, plumbing, welding, and many other industries have succumbed to diseases associated with the mineral.

For average consumers, this may happen if their home has degraded asbestos-containing materials. For instance, walls, ceilings, or floors with asbestos in them has cracked. This may be due to natural wear and tear, but it may also be intentional, such as in the case of a renovation.

Simply put, undisturbed asbestos is safe. Once it breaks or becomes agitated, its fibers will already contaminate the air. This is when it becomes a danger to yourself and your family.

Determining When You Need Professional Asbestos Removal Services

But this banning doesn’t automatically mean your house is free of this human carcinogen. This is why you need to determine you live in a safe home free of this cancer-causing material.

There are ways for you to identify asbestos in your home. For starters, if your home’s construction dates to 1986 (or earlier), then it most likely has asbestos-containing materials. Here are a few other parts of your home that may house this deadly material:

  • Vinyl tile flooring
  • Insulation
  • Vermiculite in the attic or crawlspaces

Also, like molds in the ceiling, some Canadian homes may also have asbestos in this area. If your home features architectural decorations on the plaster ceilings, then beware. There’s a high possibility that these design effects have asbestos fibers in them.

In any case, as soon as you’ve verified you have these materials in your home, the next step is to contact asbestos remediation experts. Keep in mind that while you can look for these materials on your own, it doesn’t mean you can already remove them by yourself.

The Need for Professionals When Removing Asbestos

The steps on how to remove asbestos require specialized equipment and tools. Think masks, fiber containment systems, and personal protective equipment (PPE) just to name a few. Without these devices, you put not only yourself at risk of exposure, but the people around you too.

Although homeowners don’t have the same strict and rigid regulations when it comes to asbestos handling, the possibility of developing cancers is one risk you shouldn’t take. It’s for this reason you should never handle asbestos removal on your own.

Whether you’ve already found asbestos-containing materials in your home or you plan to renovate or remodel one that contains such materials, it’s best you leave the task of removing it to pros. This is the safest, fastest way to eliminate the cancer-causing material from your house.

Ready to Live in a Safe, Asbestos-Free Home?

Prompt and professional asbestos removal services make a huge difference in the safety of your family. Even if the materials containing this mineral are intact, you should still consider getting rid of them. Because in time, they’ll break down and expose you to their life-threatening fibers.

So, as soon as you’ve found asbestos materials in your home, contact us right away.

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6 Easy Ways to Identify Asbestos in Your Home WITHOUT a Specialist

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1. Flooring asbestos 9×9 vinyl tile9x9 tiles

In renovated homes, you will often not see these as they are sandwiched under layers of wood subfloors and newer flooring tiles. However, in many old homes that are not yet renovated, these 9×9 tiles are exposed and are certain to contain asbestos fibers since most, if not all tiles with this size were manufactured with asbestos containing fibers. Nowadays, most tiles are made in 12×12.

Look under carpets in basement or by lifting a floor vent and inspecting how many subfloors exist and if any contain vinyl.

Most often people will not remove asbestos materials due to cost and encapsulate them my adding additional layers. This is generally not a problem if they are not disturbed.

2. Asbestos fibers on plaster ceilings.

Plaster ceilingsHomes build prior to 1986 can have architectural effects on ceiling. Most often material used on compounds have some asbestos fibers. Whilst it is safe if not disturbed, it is still something you should be aware of.

The above ceiling design is one you should definitely test for asbestos. Never renovate or remove these ceilings without having them tested for asbestos fiber content first.

3. Asbestos on insulation

Pipe Insulation with AsbestosOlder homes commonly used boiler systems that were insulated with asbestos as a heat shield.

While we rarely use this type of heating anymore, you need to be aware that some leftover asbestos containing  insulation on older pipes might still be present. While there is no danger if asbestos insulation is in good condition, it always should be removed by professional asbestos contractors.

4. Vermiculite containing asbestos on attics and crawl spaces

Attic VermiculiteWhile the attic space is not considered a living space, if it contains asbestos fibers on the insulation, it is a very big expense to get rid of.

Make sure the vermiculite is tested for asbestos containing materials. Friable asbestos materials are very dangerous and expensive to remove.

5. Asbestos lining on floor vents

Asbestos on floor ventAsbestos was commonly used as a heat shield in floor vents before 1986. Whilst it is not hazardous unless disturbed, older houses still contain asbestos hidden on the wrap of the floor ventilation.

Unless you disturb it by sanding or trying to remove yourself, it’s not a problem, however the paper is highly made of asbestos fibers up to 93% and disturbance to it can cause issues.

Always check with asbestos abatement professionals.

6. Asbestos materials on vinyl sheet flooring

Vinyl Sheet flooringIf it looks old it probably is, however you must consider if the vinyl sheet flooring contains asbestos fibers if you plan on removing it.

Vinyl sheet goods are embedded with asbestos fibers to make them stronger and fire resistant, that it is why we used asbestos fibers in so many materials. We didn’t know at the time that causes cancer and some many other Health issues. A vinyl sheet flooring that looks like the above has a high chance of asbestos.

Always test for asbestos fibers before removing any older vinyl sheeting.

TIP: if black tar is adhering to the vinyl, it is almost a 100% asbestos containing fiber product.

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