Frequently asked questions about asbestos:

What is asbestos?

 

Asbestos is a naturally occurring material that was widely used in building materials up to 1987. It is commonly found in materials such as:

  • Roofing, shingles and siding

  • Fencing

  • Exterior wall cladding

  • Backing material on floor tiles and vinyl flooring

  • Textured paint

  • Water or flue pipes.

  • Drywall joint compound

When such materials are left undisturbed they are relatively harmless. However, if the material is damaged or disturbed it may release fibers into the air which can eventually be fatal.

How do I know if I have asbestos in my home?

The only way to be sure whether a material contains asbestos is to have it tested by a qualified laboratory. Samples should be taken by a properly trained and accredited asbestos professional (inspector).

Are there different types of Asbestos?

Asbestos is not a single mineral — rather, it refers to a group of silicate minerals that share the same fibrous nature. In layman’s terms, it is often called “white asbestos” (chrysotile), the rarer “blue asbestos” (crocidolite) and “brown asbestos” (amosite).

Legally, the U.S. government recognizes six types of asbestos that fall into two categories, as outlined in the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) of 1986.

What is the risk associated with exposure to asbestos?

No amount of asbestos exposure is safe, but asbestos generally has the worst effects when a person is exposed to an intense concentration of it, or they are exposed on a regular basis over a long period of time.

More asbestos accumulates in the body with every exposure, and there is no known way to reverse the cellular damage it causes.

The vast majority of patients with asbestos-related diseases are men in their 60s or older. This is because asbestos-related diseases have a very long latency period, often taking decades to develop, and they usually trace back to occupational exposure at workplaces historically staffed by men.

How can I identify potential asbestos containing materials?

Without a manufacturer’s label, the only way to detect asbestos in a material is to send a sample to a lab for testing. Microscopic asbestos fibers cannot be seen, smelled or tasted, and asbestos exposure does not cause any immediate symptoms. It is easy to inhale asbestos dust without realizing it.

Many American buildings constructed before 1980 contain asbestos, and asbestos-containing materials come in many forms. Unless a product is clearly marked, you cannot determine whether it contains asbestos just by looking at it.

Where is Asbestos containing material (ACM) found?

 

ACM has been used in thousands of building materials in structures, homes and buildings built or renovated prior to 1990, and is still used today in some applications. 

Can I bury asbestos on my property? 

No. It is unlawful due to the health risks should the material become disturbed in the future. It must be taken to a regulated facility that can receive and treat asbestos waste.

What are the health risks from Asbestos

Containing Materials (ACM)?

 

Asbestos presents a potential lung disease hazard when released into the air. Persons exposed to asbestos at work have developed several types of life-threatening diseases, including Asbestosis, lung cancer and Mesothelioma.

Where Does Asbestos Come From?

 

Natural deposits of asbestos are found all around the world. The toxic mineral was once mined throughout North America. Now the main exporters are Russia, Kazakhstan and China.

Raw asbestos is made by crushing asbestos ore to separate out the other minerals in it, and then processing the asbestos until it has a soft, wooly consistency.

Pure asbestos can be made into paper, felt, cloth or rope. Asbestos fibers have also been mixed into cements, drywall compounds, plastics, paints, sealants, and adhesives.

Asbestos exposure is the No. 1 cause of occupational death in Canada. Since 1996, asbestos-related disease has accounted for around a third of workplace deaths.