Prior to 1990, asbestos was a commonly used material for insulating and fireproofing buildings. It was used in a wide range of materials ranging from tiles, flooring, furnace or heating systems and as part of cement. In fact, in the 1970s Canada was the world’s top asbestos exporter.
However, asbestos’ severe health-risks have pushed the world to mostly move away from using the material, at least in terms of new construction work. The once celebrated “magic material” is now a proven cause for lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other diseases.
Although it’s not a factor in the construction of new buildings, those properties built through the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s could contain asbestos. Initially, this asbestos was contained in sealed walls and tiles, but as buildings age, those structures start eroding and breaking down.
As a result, asbestos fibres are able to contaminate living and working spaces. Since 2013, the provincial insurance agency of British Columbia — WorkSafeBC — had accepted as many as 242 work-related death claims tied to asbestos exposure, with 53 alone in 2017.
Why Asbestos is Dangerous
Asbestos is dangerous on multiple fronts.
Firstly, asbestos-caused diseases generally materialize following years — usually decades — of sustained, long-term asbestos exposure. Basically, the symptoms of mesothelioma and/or lung cancer won’t be felt for years, but the threat of terminal illness could occur within months of symptoms being felt. Thus, prevention of asbestos exposure is the surest way of saving lives.
Secondly, asbestos is a highly mobile substance. Basically, friable asbestos can be ground or pulverized into a fine powdered form. In turn, these fine fibres can travel through the air and enter the human body through inhalation. Worse, these fibres are not visible to the naked eye.
Thirdly, asbestos-caused diseases are difficult to treat. Generally, if symptoms don’t emerge for decades after exposure, then it’s likely that diagnosis won’t occur until it’s relatively too late.
Learn More about Asbestos in Buildings:
- The Symptoms of Asbestos Exposure and the Diseases Causing Them
- Does Your Condo Have Asbestos? Make Sure to Abide by Asbestos Regulations
- Understanding Asbestos Removal Legislation
Not only are lung cancer and mesothelioma difficult to treat, but the longer that cancer lingers, the more difficult it is to survive, especially for mesothelioma patients.
Survival Rates for Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma Patients
Signs of Asbestos Exposure
If you’re trying to verify the presence of asbestos and measure the extent of contamination, then your first step should be to contact an environmental consulting firm. You need professional and qualified expertise to properly inspect for, sample and test asbestos in your building.
Not oly is this an issue of ensuring the work is done correctly, but safely as well. Asbestos is a hazardous substance that falls under the domain of the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), e.g. Regulation 278/05 and Section 25(2)(h).
The Only Way to Prevent the Health Risks of Asbestos is to Professionally Remove it
If you’re worried about potential asbestos exposure, you must pay attention to the following:
It’s difficult to spot symptoms of asbestos-causing diseases in people because these symptoms — like the diseases that cause them — generally develop after many years of exposure.
Signs of this nature will only be apparent in tenants who have lived or worked in your property for a long time prior to showing symptoms. Key symptoms of asbestos-caused diseases — such as asbestosis, pleural plaques, lung cancer, and mesothelioma — include difficulties in breathing, chest pain, dry and continuous coughing. In the case of cancer, look for the coughing of blood.
The diagnosis process of the body by physicians will test for asbestos fibres and contamination.
To prevent asbestos contamination — and asbestos-caused diseases — you must pay attention to the condition of your building(s). Asbestos was primarily used in buildings built before 1990; builders had packed asbestos behind walls, tiles and ceiling surfaces.
As your building ages, these surfaces will lose integrity through cracks, damage or even outright displacement (e.g. wall tiles falling-off). Should this happen, the asbestos beneath of behind the surface will contaminate your living or working spaces.
The risk of asbestos exposure is highest in such buildings.
You must take account of such damage in your building and, if you suspect there’s asbestos in place, contact an environmental consulting firm and environmental contractor.
Working towards asbestos removal is the best way to preventing asbestos-caused health risks, especially when it’s done following asbestos guidelines set-out by the OHSA. Contact FERRO Environmental today to professionally get started on your asbestos remediation efforts.