Asbestos refers to several naturally-occurring fibrous minerals that are found in rock. Due to its heat-resistance, durability and insulating properties, in the past asbestos was used in a wide range of manufactured products including building materials such as shingles, ceiling and floor tiles, siding, and building insulation. Before 1990, asbestos was commonly used for insulating buildings and homes.
Human Health Risks
Asbestos fibres can be easily inhaled and carried to the lower regions of the lungs. Asbestos is a known carcinogen. Breathing in the fibres can lead to several diseases including:
- Asbestosis – a scarring of the lungs, making it difficult to breathe;
- Mesothelioma – a rare cancer of the lining of the chest or abdominal cavity; and
- Lung Cancer – smoking can increase this risk.
Exposure to Asbestos
There is no significant human health risk if asbestos is not present in the air. Materials containing asbestos do not pose a health hazard as long as the products are intact (i.e. ceiling tiles), sealed (i.e. floor tiles), isolated in the attic (i.e. insulation), or left undisturbed (i.e. intact insulation around pipes). Asbestos becomes a health hazard only when fibres are disturbed and become airborne, creating the risk that they may be inhaled.
Fibres can be released when asbestos-containing products breakdown or are cut or disturbed, for instance, during home renovations.
Prior to initiating any home renovations, demolition, or additions, consider hiring a licensed professional to test for asbestos. If asbestos is found, the material should be removed by a qualified specialist, prior to proceeding with renovations.
Every attempt should be made to avoid disturbing asbestos-containing materials. Avoiding disturbances can protect your and your family’s health. In the event asbestos-containing materials have or will become disturbed, the materials may need to be removed. Prior to removing the materials, seek the advice and assistance of a qualified asbestos removal expert. It is highly recommended that any removal and disposal of asbestos-containing materials be completed by a qualified professional.
Recently, it has come to light that General Electric (GE) is offering abatement and remediation services for homes in the Peterborough area that are insulated with asbestos-containing material purchased from GE’s Peterborough facility.
Adapted from content on: