Asbestos has serious health, safety & environmental issues related to it. Various cancers and lung diseases have been associated with asbestos. People who smoke, children and young adults are at a somewhat higher risk. Concerns increase with asbestos when it is in a friable (readily crumbled; brittle) state. Although different diseases, inhaling microscopic asbestos fibres can cause mesothelioma and asbestosis .
The use of friable asbestos containing materials (ACMs) in building construction was legislatively banned in the mid-1970s (for specific products). The use of asbestos in all friable building materials was essentially phased out of use un the early 1980’s and legislatively banned in 1985/86. The use of asbestos in non-friable building materials (this including the industry defined “semi-friable” building materials such as plaster, acoustical ceiling tiles, vinyl sheet flooring and paper products), although not legislatively banned, was drastically reduced in building construction in the early 1980s. Occupational Health & Safety and Environmental Consulting industries have established 1985/86 as the year after which it is increasingly unlikely to encounter non-friable asbestos building materials employed in building construction.
Asbestos may be found in many areas of a building such as:
- sprayed or towelled materials (e.g. plaster, drywall compound) applied onto walls, ceilings and other areas
- insulation on pipes, boilers, tanks, ducts, and other equipment
- acoustical plaster
- ceiling tiles
- vinyl asbestos floor tiles
- textiles (cloth, blankets, felts, theatre & welding curtains, tubing, sheets, cord, rope, yarn, tape)
- paper products (corrugated, mill board)
- roofing felts (shingles, smooth & mineral surface)
- concrete-like products (extrusion panels, siding / clapboard & shingles, pipe)
- thermal insulation (batts, blocks and pipe insulation) / vermiculite
Typically, samples of the materials are taken for lab testing to confirm the presence of asbestos. There may be potential liabilities associated with homes / buildings containing asbestos. For example, they may have a stigma attached to them that may affect the value of the home perhaps; there may be costs associated with any removal / disposal of asbestos; and or, costs associated with ensuring the area containing asbestos is sealed off from living spaces and remains undisturbed in the event renovations are contemplated.
If asbestos has been removed at some point from a home / building, we recommend you ascertain if this work was carried out correctly. If there is asbestos present in a building, contractors doing work in it may not work in that environment and require that their safety is protected or request the removal of the hazardous materials. If present, remedial action may be required that can be costly in some instances, for example, based on the quantities present, its’ location, etc.
In the event of a fire for example, any ACM might taint other building materials in the aftermath making the clean up / remediation work one which must deal with a contaminated site of hazardous materials. Some insurance companies may limit or refuse to provide coverage on home / buildings with asbestos, or they may require additional / higher premiums, modifications, and/or further inspections / testing.