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Understanding Asbestos And How To Avoid It

Asbestos warning signThese days, asbestos is commonly known as a killer. Its extremely harmful effects on our respiratory systems are well documented. It’s hard to believe that just a few short decades ago, asbestos was known as a chief insulator in the construction of our offices and homes. As well, Canada was a well known exporter of the hazardous material. If you live or work in a building that was constructed before the 1990s, you may want to better acquaint yourself with asbestos.

Now, of course, we don’t mean for you to come into contact with asbestos when we say “acquaint” yourself with it. But becoming knowledgeable about this “killer” is an important step in being able to avoid the perils that come with inhaling its airborne fibres. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, there are two main categories of asbestos. And they are often defined by their colours.

Amphibole asbestos refers to “blue or brown asbestos”. And unfortunately, it is a cancer-causing agent.  AsbestosNetwork.com informs us that two of the most common and most dangerous types of asbestos belong to this group. Amosite is described as brown or grey in colour as they contain iron and magnesium. Crocidolite or riebeckite are blue, straight fibers made up of sodium iron magnesium silicate.

Serpentine asbestos refers to “white asbestos”, says the Canadian Cancer Society. And the only type of serpentine asbestos that exists is known as chrysotile asbestos. Thankfully, this material is less harmful than all types of amphibole asbestos, although it is still known to cause cancer. The Canadian Cancer Society reveals that “chrysotile asbestos is currently the most commonly used form of asbestos in the world and is the only kind mined in Canada.”

They go on to note that chrysotile asbestos can still be found in many products that are still being used today. Brake linings, building materials, water and sewer pipes and insulation are among them. In fact, AsbestosNetwork.com reveals that “chrysotile accounts for 90% of asbestos in products”. It is noted by the Canadian Cancer Society, however, that “the use of chrysotile asbestos has been banned in many countries.”

In fact, they report that “as of 2013, over 50 countries have banned the use of all forms of asbestos. Until recently, Canada was one of the few countries that continued to mine chrysotile asbestos, but in 2012 the asbestos mines stopped operating.” It’s also important to highlight the fact that asbestos is now regulated and rarely ever used in new products and materials. So how can we avoid exposure to asbestos if it is found in older products?

It’s all about avoiding a disturbance. In other words, asbestos becomes dangerous when its fibres become airborne. So you’ll want to avoid breaking, hitting or damaging any materials that may contain asbestos. This is especially important when renovating a property. It’s important to know if the construction of your building contains asbestos before hammering into any of its walls. Testing for asbestos should be your first pre-renovation move.

At DF Technical & Consulting Services Ltd., we offer Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM) Services. As part of our asbestos testing services, we will assess your heating ducts, furnaces, plumbing, electrical wiring, attics, cinder walls, ceilings and flooring. For more information on this and all of our indoor air quality services, please don’t hesitate to call us at 1-855-668-3131 or email info@dftechnical.ca.

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