Asbestos

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is the name given to a group of materials which occur naturally as masses of long silky fibres. Asbestos is known for its unique properties of being resistant to abrasion, inert to acid and alkaline solutions, and stable at high temperatures. Because of these attributes, asbestos was commonly used as an insulating material for hot water pipes and ducts, sprayed insulation in attics, as a component of floor tiles, sheet flooring, and ceiling tiles, or in stucco finishes. The use of asbestos in Canada was banned in 1978 however, existing supplies of the various asbestos containing products could be used up after that date.

There are three main types of asbestos fibres:

  • Chrysotile (White)
  • Amosite (Brown)
  • Crocidolite (Blue)

Why is asbestos a concern?

When disturbed, asbestos releases small fibres into the air which may be inhaled, once inhaled these fibres are deposited and retained in the airways and tissues of the lungs. Such deposits are associated with the development of diseases such as Mesothelioma and other types of Cancer.

Asbestos-Containing Materials (A-CMs) which can be crumbled, pulverized, or reduced to powder by hand pressure are identified as friable. When friable A-CM is damaged or disturbed it releases fibres into the air. Airborne asbestos fibres are small, odourless, and tasteless. They range in size from 0.1 to 10 microns in length (a human hair is about 50 microns in diameter) and because asbestos fibres are small and light, they can be suspended in the air for long periods.

Where can Asbestos be Found?

Asbestos is found in many manufactured products including sprayed fireproofing, mechanical (pipe and boiler) insulations, floor tiles, sheet flooring, sheet rock, ceiling tiles, automotive friction products, rubber tile matting, rubber stair treading and risers, acoustical panels and sound proofing, gasket material, stage curtains, roofing materials, asbestos cement (transite) products (siding and pipe), caulking, electrical panel insulation and wiring, fire brick, tar, along with many other products.

Asbestos may be present if:

  • The building was constructed or refurbished between 1945-1980
  • Has a steel frame
  • A boiler system with thermal insulation

Mould

What is Mould and Where is it Found?

Mould (fungi) is present everywhere, indoors and outside. There are more than 100,000 species of mould of which at least 1,000 are common in Canada.

The more commonly found species include:

  • Cladosporium
  • Penicillium
  • Asbergillus

Mould is most likely to grow in places where there is water or dampness - such as in bathrooms and basements. While the majority of moulds do not have identified health effects for humans, a small number of species are known to have toxic health effects.

How Can Mould Affect your Health

The types of mould that are routinely encountered are not considered hazardous to healthy individuals however, exposure to high concentrations of any types of mould may cause or worsen conditions such as asthma, hay fever, or other allergies.

Some of the most common symptoms of overexposure are cough, congestion, runny nose, eye irritation, skin irritation (rashes), and aggravation of asthma. Depending on the level of exposure and a person's individual vulnerability, more serious health effects, such as fevers and breathing problems and or cause infection in immuno-compromised individuals (i.e. Aspergilosis, Histoplasmosis), but are less frequent. Some mould species can produce chemicals called mycotoxins. Mycotoxxins may cause illness in people who are particularly sensitive to them or if they are exposed to high airborne concentrations.

How Can You Be Exposed to Mould?

When mouldy materials get damaged or disturbed, spores (reproductive bodies similar to seeds) can be released into the air. Exposure routes include:

  • Inhalation of Spores or mycotoxins
  • Direct contact with mouldy materials
  • Accidental ingestion

How Does Mould Grow?

All mould species need water and a food source to grow. Mould can grow almost anywhere there is water damage, high humidity, or dampness. Most often moulds are confined to areas near the source of water. Removing the water source through repairs or dehumidification is critical to preventing mould growth however, spores spread through the air may remain dormant until conditions are right for growth.


Other Home Hazards

Lead

Lead is a refined metal commonly found as a component of solders on copper piping, at concentrations of 40% - 60% or 40,000 to 60,000 parts per million (ppm) by weight, or as a component of interior or exterior lead based paints, at concentrations of greater than 0.5% (5,000 ppm) by weight.

Lead is historically known to cause adverse health effects and can be introduced in to the body by inhalation of lead containing dusts and/or digestion through drinking water from systems with lead pipes or solders. Lead poisoning affects primarily the brain and nervous system and may also damage the kidneys, digestive system, reproductive systems, as well as other organs. Lead accumulates in the body and may remain in an adult’s blood for up to 30 days but may also be stored in the bones for up to 30 years.

Mercury

Mercury is a refined metal, which remains liquid at room temperature. Mercury is commonly found in thermostats, as a compound inside fluorescent light lamps, and as a paint pigment.

Mercury is historically known to cause adverse health effects and can be introduced into the body through skin absorption, inhalation of vapour, or digestion. Mercury poisoning affects primarily the brain and nervous systems and may cause personality changes, trembling, nervousness, or even dementia depending on the level of exposure. One common name for Mercury poisoning is mad hatters decease.

PCB ( Polychlorinated Biphenyls)

PCB's were manufactured products used as coolant and insulator fluids in transformers and capacitors. They also functioned as heat transfer fluids and as flame-retardants for wood products. PCB’s are commonly found in capacitors, and as a contaminant of the tar filler, of fluorescent light fixture ballasts. The use of PCB’s was banned in 1978.

PCB’s were first discovered as an environmental pollutant in 1966 and can be introduced to the body through absorption through the skin or ingestion of PCB contaminated foods such as fish. PCB’s accumulate and are stored in fatty tissues and are a suspected carcinogen, cancer causing agent. Other known adverse health effects include disruption of reproductive function, neurobehavioral and developmental deficits in children, along with systemic effects such as liver disease, diabetes, and effects on thyroid and immune systems.

Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is a chemical compound that is used in glues in carpeting, furniture, vehicle upholstery (new car smell), plywood and wallboard, and was a component of sprayed foam insulation in walls of buildings. This foam material was known as Urea Formaldehyde Foam Insulation (UFFI) and was mainly installed between 1977 until its ban in 1980. There was a government funded program for the removal of UFFI but not all homes insulated with UFFI were abated. To date, there are UFFI clauses in most residential purchase agreements.

UFFI was banned due to the off gassing of formaldehyde, release of formaldehyde gas, following installation. Formaldehyde is an irritating and toxic gas at significant concentrations, symptoms of overexposure include irritation of eyes, nose, and throat, persistent cough and respiratory distress, skin irritation, nausea, headache, and dizziness. Some individuals are more sensitive and are affected at low concentrations. UFFI remaining in homes today generally is not a problem as off gassing is complete within six weeks of installation however, if the UFFI gets wet it may break down inducing further release of formaldehyde gas.


 Environmental Site Assessments (Phase I and II)


Well Testing


Residential Fee's at a Glance

 

  • Asbestos and mould surveys range between $1,500-$3,500.
  • Fee's to address residential grow-op concerns range between $1,500 - $5,000.
  • Environmental Site Assessments start at $5,000
  • Well Testing starts at $1,500

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