What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a name given to a number of naturally occurring fibrous silicate minerals that have been mined for their useful physical properties such as relative incombustibility, excellent thermal and acoustical insulation values, great tensile strength, and resistance to corrosion by acid and bases. The two most common types of asbestos found in Canada are chrysotile and amosite. Chrysotile is present in approximately 90%-95% of all asbestos materials contained in buildings and, like all asbestos forms, can only be identified under a microscope.

Why is asbestos a hazard?

Asbestos is made up of microscopic bundles of fibers that may become airborne when disturbed. These airborne fibers can then be inhaled into the lungs, where they may cause significant health problems. Some of these health problems include:

  • Asbestosis – a lung disease caused by the encapsulation of asbestos fibers when they fibers are inhaled. The latency period (meaning the time it takes for the disease to become developed after exposure) is often 25-40 years.
  • Mesothelioma – an extremely rare and always fatal cancer of the lining of the chest cavity (pleura) or the abdominal cavity (peritoneum). This form of cancer is peculiar because the only known cause is from asbestos exposure. The latency period for Mesothelioma is often 15-30 years.
  • Lung Cancer – cancer of the respiratory tract and lung caused by exposure to asbestos. The risks of developing lung cancer are greatly increased by cigarette smoking.

Where would I find asbestos?

Asbestos has been used in building materials since at least the early 1900s. Contrary to some information, there is no actual end date for the use of asbestos building material. In some instances, it is still being installed in Canadian buildings that are currently being built. The first asbestos regulation for the construction industry in Ontario was not even published until 1985. Even after publication, it took a long time to establish general compliance. Asbestos in many materials is still regularly found in buildings built up to 1990.

Asbestos can be found in hundreds of products. Common Building Products That May Contain Asbestos include:

  • STEAM PIPES, BOILERS, and FURNACE DUCTS. Pipe insulation can be found in many forms including Air Cell (a corrugate cardboard style material), parging cement and sweat wrap. Older boilers are regularly covered with parging cement. Ductwork can have Air Cell, blanket paper insulation or asbestos paper tape. These materials may release asbestos fibers if damaged, repaired, or removed improperly.
  • RESILIENT FLOOR TILES (vinyl asbestos, asphalt, and rubber), the backing on VINYL SHEET FLOORING, and ADHESIVES used for installing floor tile. Sanding tiles can release fibers. So could scraping or sanding the backing of sheet flooring during removal.
  • CEMENT SHEET, MILLBOARD, and PAPER used as insulation around furnaces and woodburning stoves. Repairing or removing appliances may release asbestos fibers. So could cutting, tearing, sanding, drilling, or sawing insulation.
  • PLASTER MATERIAL used as wall and ceiling finishes. This could be any plaster material, whether it is constructed with wood lath, metal lath or plaster board as the base. Textured plaster finishes are even more likely to contain asbestos, but all plaster has the potential to contain asbestos. Repairing or removing this material may release asbestos fibers. So could sanding, drilling or sawing the material.
  • DOOR GASKETS in furnaces, wood stoves, and coal stoves. Worn seals can release asbestos fibers during use.
  • SOUNDPROOFING OR DECORATIVE MATERIAL sprayed on walls and ceilings (texture coat, popcorn ceiling). Loose, crumbly, or water-damaged material may release fibers. So could sanding, drilling, or scraping the material.
  • PATCHING AND JOINT COMPOUNDS for walls and ceilings such as drywall joint compound, and TEXTURED PAINTS. Sanding, scraping, or drilling these surfaces may release asbestos.
  • ASBESTOS CEMENT ROOFING, SHINGLES, and SIDING. These products are not likely to release asbestos fibers unless sawed, dilled, or cut. However they do require specific handling under the asbestos regulation and cannot be disposed of as regular waste.
  • ARTIFICIAL ASHES AND EMBERS sold for use in gas-fired fireplaces. Also, other older household products such as FIREPROOF GLOVES, STOVE-TOP PADS, IRONING BOARD COVERS, and certain HAIRDRYERS.
  • VERMICULITE INSULATION most often used for attic insulation, block fill or pouring down open topped wall cavities. This material has the potential to release fibers with any disturbance.

What do I do if I have suspected asbestos material?

Material that has the potential to contain asbestos should only be handled by trained professionals. Suspect material must be sampled according to the requirements of O. Reg 278/05 to confirm that it does not have asbestos or be treated as though it is an asbestos containing material. Power Vac/Power Environmental can help you with arranging for testing as necessary.

How Can Power Vac/Power Environmental Help with Asbestos Removal?

In Ontario, asbestos is a designated substance and has specific legislation governing how it must be handled when disturbed. The management and removal of asbestos and other toxic materials requires highly trained personnel and an up-to-date, in depth knowledge of Health and Safety Guidelines and legislation.

At Power Vac/Power Environmental, we have the experience and training to ensure the safety the site, its occupants and our workers are maintained to the current legislation. Using highly skilled technicians and supervisors, we provide services for removal and disposal of asbestos containing materials and other hazardous substances.

All our key technical team members have the training certificates required by the Ontario Ministry of Labour to work in hazardous environments. These include Asbestos/Worker Handler, Asbestos Type 3 Removal Worker License, Asbestos Type 3 Supervisor License (AAS), WHMIS and Working at Heights. Our staff has an in depth understanding of the current Occupational Health and Safety Legislation as well as the current Asbestos Regulation (O. Reg 278/05).

Our services include custom solutions for every project whether it is for asbestos repairs, Type 1 operations, Type 2 operations or Type 3 operations. Power Vac Services/Power Environmental is an industry leader in providing all types of asbestos removal for both residential and commercial clients.

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