Asbestos is a natural mineral with unusual qualities. It is strong enough to resist high temperatures, chemical attack and
Asbestos crystals become long, flexible, silky fibres, so it can be made into a wide variety of forms. It can be spun into yarn,
woven into cloth or braided into rope. Asbestos can also be added to materials as diverse as cotton and cement.
This combination of properties gives asbestos performance capabilities that are difficult to match.
What has asbestos been used for?
Asbestos has been used in hundreds of applications and products over the past 4,500 years. The ancient Greeks wove it into oil
lamp wicks, funeral shrouds and ceremonial tablecloths. During the 1800s, it insulated the hot engines, boilers and piping that
powered the Industrial Revolution.
For half a century, until the 1980s, asbestos was used in office buildings, public buildings and schools. It insulated hot water
heating systems, and was put into walls and ceilings as insulation against fire and sound.
Asbestos has also been widely used in transportation and electrical appliances, frequently mixed with, and encased in, other
Asbestos has also been found in many products around the house. It has been used in clapboard; shingles and felt for roofing;
exterior siding; pipe and boiler covering; compounds and cement, such as caulk, putty, roof patching, furnace cement and
driveway coating; wallboard; textured and latex paints; acoustical ceiling tiles and plaster; vinyl floor tiles; appliance wiring; hair
dryers; irons and ironing board pads; flame-resistant aprons and electric blankets; and clay pottery. Loose-fill vermiculite
insulation, typically found in Attics. may contain traces of “amphibole” asbestos.
How has the use of asbestos changed?
When it became evident that regular exposure to asbestos on the job involved health risks, the public became more concerned
about exposure to asbestos in offices and schools, and, eventually, about all asbestos products.
This concern has led to a dramatic decline in asbestos use since the early 1980s. The use of asbestos insulation in buildings and
heating systems has virtually disappeared. Residential use, for roofing, flooring and appliances, continues to decrease.
While alternative products are being developed to replace asbestos, products sold today containing asbestos are regulated
under the Hazardous Products Act. Asbestos can be used safely, and public concern has led to improved product design and
manufacture. Asbestos is now better encapsulated and sealed to reduce the escape of fibres.
Asbestos is valuable in many applications because it has been difficult to find comparable substitute materials. For example, it is
still an important component of brake lining and clutch facings.
What health problems are associated with exposure to asbestos?
Health Canada states that the asbestos content of a product does not indicate its health risk.
Asbestos poses health risks only when fibres are in the air that people breathe. Asbestos fibres lodge in the lungs, causing
scarring that can ultimately lead to severely impaired lung function (asbestosis) and cancers of the lungs or lung cavity.
Concern for the health of asbestos workers was expressed as long ago as the late 1800s. The risks became more evident in the
late 1960s, when workers who had been heavily exposed 20 to 30 years earlier showed increased incidence of lung disease.
Occupational exposure is now strictly regulated by provincial governments.
When can asbestos be a problem in the home?
Today, far fewer products in the home contain asbestos. Current products that do contain the material are better made to
However, frequent or prolonged exposure to asbestos fibres may still bring health risks. This can happen with the release of
fibres into the air when asbestos-containing products break down, either through deterioration as they age or when they are cut.
People can put themselves at risk — often without realizing it — if they do not take proper precautions when repairs or
renovations disturb asbestoscontaining materials. This can occur in a number of situations:
Disturbing loose-fill vermiculite insulation which may contain asbestos
Removing deteriorating roofing shingles and siding containing asbestos, or tampering with roofing felt that contains asbestos
Ripping away old asbestos insulation from around a hot water tank
Sanding or scraping vinyl asbestos floor tiles
Breaking apart acoustical ceilings tiles containing asbestos
Sanding plaster containing asbestos, or sanding or disturbing acoustical plaster that gives ceilings and walls a soft, textured look
Sanding or scraping older water-based asbestos coatings such as roofing compounds, spackling, sealants, paint, putty, caulking
Sawing, drilling or smoothing rough edges of new or old asbestos materials
How to minimize the asbestos risks in the home?
If you do not know if products in your home contain asbestos, have an experienced contractor inspect them. If there is asbestos,
the best interim measure (unless the product is peeling or deteriorating) is to seal the surface temporarily so that fibres will not be
released into indoor air. If the product is already protected or isolated, simply leave it alone.
It is a complex and expensive matter to remove asbestos, and should be done by an experienced contractor. When disturbing an
asbestos product, maximum precautions must be taken to safeguard the workers and anybody else who may be nearby.
Asbestos dust must remain within the work area so that it cannot be breathed in by unprotected persons.
It is essential to take adequate precautions. Everybody who works with asbestos should always wear an approved face mask and
gloves, along with protective clothing. Be sure to tape sleeve and trouser cuffs, and wash clothes separately after use. Keep the
work area moist to keep dust and fibre particles from floating into the air. Isolate the work space.
Reduce the air pressure to prevent asbestos fibres from escaping from the work area, and filter the exhaust air. Dispose of all
waste appropriately, according to the guidelines of your provincial department of the environment. Other removal methods may
be warranted for special conditions — consult an expert.
Testing for Asbestos in Vermiculite
Vermiculite insulation in loose form can be readily visually identified as a light weight, silvery grey or blonde, granular, layered
material, with particle sizes of about 2 to 10 millimeters. If vermiculite is known to have been installed prior to 1990, visual
identification should be adequate to confirm the material as asbestos-suspect.
The visual identification can be confirmed by laboratory testing, although caution in selecting the laboratory is advised. The
laboratory should be accredited by one of the two US agencies that qualify laboratories for the analysis of asbestos in bulk
samples. Even these laboratories require extra care to detect the very fine fibres at these low concentrations.Laboratories that do
not specialize in asbestos analysis should never be relied on for asbestos analysis.
It is extremely important to note that the overall percentages of asbestos in the bulk vermiculite are very low, possibly below
existing legal limits for asbestos. None-the-less, the airborne concentrations can be very high when the material is disturbed, due
to the very fine and loose nature of the asbestos. A recent US EPA study of six homes in Vermont showed elevated airborne
asbestos concentrations even in cases where the laboratory could not detect asbestos in the bulk material. Therefore EPA
recommends that all loose-fill insulation visually identified as vermiculite, and installed prior to 1990, be treated with asbestos
Is Spray Foam Insulation Safe?
Spray polyurethane foam (SPF) is an effective insulation and air sealant material; however, exposure to its key
ingredient, isocyanates and other SPF chemicals that may be found in vapours, aerosols, dust, or on surfaces during
and for a period of time after installation can cause adverse health effects.
If you stay out of your home during and after spray foam installation, and if the spray foam has "cured" properly, then
spray polyurethane foam insulation (SPF) is generally considered to be safe.
However, some of the chemicals used to make spray foam insulation are known to be hazards to human health,
according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Spray foam installers must wear protective gear while spraying.
And residence are asked to leave the residence for at least 24 hours during and after spray foam installation. Spray
polyyurethane foam insulation is manufactured in your home, and not in a factory. Two liquids chemicals, called Side A
and Side B are combined together and mixed on site during installation. Side A consists mostly of highly reactive
chemicals called isocyanates.
Exposure to isocyanate's is know to cause severe breathing and skin problems. These chemicals are reported to be a
leading cause of work related asthma, and in severe cases, fatal reactions have occurred, according to the EPA
The above information was taken from Market Place online blog Oct 25, 2013
health concerns, steps to control exposure, ventilation and much more.
Spray Foam Insulation - TERMITES?
Spray roam insulations are popular construction material, but some exterminators are warning that the puffy stuff lining
your walls could be a speedway for hungry termites seeking out wood.
The foam insulation creates a dense, sponge like environment that can save energy and lower utility bills, but also
allows termites to tunnel their way to wooden beams and frames that could be holding up your house. According to a
recent CBC news article posted online July 16, 2013. I recommend you read the article and watch the video.
Today energy is not cheap, electric, gas, oil it doesn't matter it's expensive and if your home doesn't have the proper
amount of insulation (other factors can be involved such as air leakage, age and type of windows, energy efficiency of
your furnace and or A/C etc), which is based on your specific regions building code, then you may be paying more for
your heating or air conditioning bills. So how do you determine if you need to upgrade?. Typical a home energy audit can
help. Ontario use to have a home energy audit rebate program but I believe it's been cancelled. You might still look into a
professional home energy auditor to come in and evaluate your home at a cost.
If you want to do more research and you love to read:)), I have included detailed .pdf's (an Ontario Supplementary
Standard SB-12 Energy Efficency for Housing Jan 2012 update and an Ontario Energy Star New Home Technical Guide
2011) as well as the EnerGuide Website and an American website (American Energy Department) which will provide
useful information. At the end you should check with a local professional who is certified and or registered, for the most
CMHC About Your House - Insulation Guide
Natural Resorces Canada - Energuide Website Pages
Natural Resorces Canada - Energy Star for New Homes Technical Guide 2011
Ontario Supplementary Standard SB-12 - Energy Efficency for Housing Jan 2012 update
American Energy Department - Website with useful information
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