These days, the term “asbestos” is practically a bad word. And perhaps it can be argued that it should be considering how dangerous it is to our health! Today, we should all be well aware of the dangers of asbestos as it relates to our respiratory systems. Breathing in its fibres has been known to cause a number of fatal cancers. At one point, however, asbestos was actually seen as a protector, of sorts.
How was asbestos once used to protect people? As Lee Snodgrass explains on ThisOldHouse.com, asbestos even gets its name from its ability to ward off fires. “The name has its origin in the Greek word for inextinguishable,” he informs, “A highly-effective and inexpensive fire-retardant material and thermal and acoustic insulator, asbestos was used extensively in home construction from the early 1940s through the 1970s.”
The Canadian Cancer Survivor Network adds that asbestos was also looked upon as an incredibly useful material thanks to these qualities. “Asbestos has many uses due to its inherent properties,” reports their website, “A strong, durable and flexible material, asbestos acts as an insulator because it does not conduct heat; moreover, it is relatively chemically inert, or unreactive. Due to these properties, asbestos has high commercial value.”
So what makes asbestos so dangerous? By itself, asbestos is practically harmless. You might say that you can relate its dangerousness to that of a sleeping mountain lion or venomous snake. As long as they are not provoked, you should not be in harm’s way. Like these examples from the animal kingdom, asbestos should also not be provoked. “When disturbed, tiny abrasive asbestos fibers are easily inhaled, which damages lung tissue and can cause cancer,” reveals Snodgrass.
So why was asbestos ever used? Again, being seen as a fireproof way to insulate homes, asbestos was once viewed a very valuable material. Snodgrass explains that “in homes built prior to 1975, asbestos is most commonly found as thermal insulation on basement boilers and pipes.” However, it can also be found in a variety of different areas throughout the home. The Canadian Cancer Survivor Network notes that it still has several contemporary uses.
What are the contemporary uses of asbestos? They include insulation around windows, gaskets, furnaces and pipes. It is also used to reinforce building products such as tiles and cement. Asbestos has also been used in fire-resistant products such as drywall and fabrics. As well, it has been known to improve the durability of vehicle brakes, transmissions and clutches. So both your car and your home may contain asbestos!
So how can people avoid its dangers? “The danger comes from asbestos material that has been damaged over time,” reveals Snodgrass, “Asbestos that crumbles easily if handled, or that has been sawed, scraped, or sanded into a powder is likely to release asbestos fibres and create a health hazard. If you suspect a part of your home may contain asbestos, check periodically for tears, abrasions or water damage.”
You may also want to enlist the help of DF Technical & Consulting Services Ltd. Especially if you are planning any renovations of any kind, it is certainly wise to check for the presence of asbestos in your home before doing anything. We offer Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM) Services that test your home for traces of this dangerous material. For more information, please don’t hesitate to call us at 1-855-668-3131 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.