What Is Asbestos?
Asbestos is the name applied to six naturally occurring minerals that are mined from the earth. The different types of asbestos are:
Properties of Asbestos
- Asbestos fibres are virtually indestructible
- They are resistant to chemicals and heat
- They do not evaporate into the air or dissolve in water and are not broken down over time
- Asbestos is one of the best insulators known to man
- Asbestos fibres are fire resistant, flexible, and have sound proofing qualities making them a useful and durable product for insulation
History of Use
- In the stone age it was used to strengthen pottery
- In the Roman times it was used for
- burial garments
- cloth goods
- In the 13th century it was used in Siberia and was know as salamander's wool
- During the industrial Revolution it was in demand for use as an insulating material which was resistant to high temperatures
- In 1877 Canada opened its first Asbestos mine in Quebec
The Nature of Asbestos Fibres
- All types of asbestos tend to break into very tiny fibres
- These individual fibres are so small that they must be identified using a microscope
- Some fibres may be up to 300 times smaller than a human hair
- Because asbestos fibres are so small, once released into the air, they may remain suspended there for hours or even days
History of Asbestos Exposure and Disease
- In 1935, Kenneth Lynch, MD published an article linking the exposure of asbestos with lung cancer
- Primary health effect is through inhalation of the asbestos fibres
- It causes irritation to the skin, eyes, and upper respiratory tract
- Long term health effects may include:
- Lung Cancer
A Widespread Hazard
The proper removal of asbestos contaminated material is a serious issue. Many do not realize the extent of contamination that is present in older homes and commercial buildings. When asbestos fibre is disturbed and becomes airborne, it becomes a health hazard.
A recent article in the May 2011 Occupational Health and Safety magazine entitled Stirring Up Trouble: Asbestos Hazards In Home Renovations it presents very clearly the risks of renovating without testing for the presence of asbestos.
On pages 6 - 7 it states:
"Until the mid-1980's asbestos was used in everything from drywall mud and tape to linoleum flooring and countertops; it was in ceiling tiles and adhesives.... Starting in the early 1970's a series of provincial and federal laws and international agreements came into effect to protect the public from asbestos. By the mid 1980's many products containing asbestos had been declared dangerous and prohibited, although some were still used until the late 1980's.... While homes built after the mid-to late 1980's are less likely to have asbestos-containing products, there is no legislation requiring homeowners to remove existing products. Asbestos is not a hazard until it is disturbed. Radnoff [a senior occupational hygienist with Alberta Employment and Immigration] says homeowners who are planning renovations - even removing linoleum - should hire a company to test for asbestos before getting down to work".
On page 8 it states:
"Business owners who discover asbestos are required to report the findings and develop a plan for abatement, which would be carried out when appropriate, probably during future renovations. If abatement is not carried out immediately, the employer must ensure that workers are not exposed to the asbestos".
Asbestos Removal Is Government Regulated
Two very good resources from the Government of Alberta which cover the responsibilities of employers and contractors related to hazard assessment and abatement of asbestos are:
- The Alberta Asbestos Abatement Manual which details information on:
- asbestos containing products
- health risks
- removal and sampling procedures
- qualifications of abatement workers
- Occupational Health and Safety Code,Part 4, Chemical Hazards, Biological Hazards and Harmful Substances covers legislation related to asbestos in the work site.
We Can Provide Qualified Asbestos Abatement Services
William T. Archbold, Super Bee owner and lead technician, has met all the specific standards and qualifications to be certified as a CMRS (Council-certified Microbial Remediation Supervisor), Board-awarded by the American Council for Accredited Certification (ACAC). He has also successfully completed the course Occupational Health and Safety for the Asbestos Worker and is carded by the Government of Alberta to perform asbestos abatement in low to high risk environments. William is a member of the AIHA, IAQA, and ASHRAE.