Asbestos – BC Centre for Disease Control

Asbestos – BC Centre for Disease Control

Learn about safe asbestos removal from private homes.

Asbestos breaks down into smaller fibers as it ages or when it is disturbed, like during a flood. Touching or moving it releases the fibers into the air, which can be dangerous for you and your family when inhaled into the lungs. Breathing asbestos fibers can cause serious and irreversible health effects that can be fatal. These health effects include asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma (cancer in the lining of the lungs), and restricted breathing due to thickening of lung tissues. People who smoke are at even higher risk. 

Even a single exposure to asbestos can lead to serious health effects. You will not feel ill right away, because it takes years for these health effects to become apparent. 

Historically, asbestos was widely used in different building materials because it is strong and fireproof. When the dangers of asbestos became clear, it was restricted and eventually banned in Canada. However, asbestos can still be present in many areas of older buildings.

Year of construction Likelihood of asbestos presence
1990 or later Low
1980 to 1990 Moderate

  • Blown insulation in attics and wall cavities (vermiculite/ZonoliteTM)
  • Roofing felts and shingles
  • Drywall and joint compound
  • Textured ceiling coatings
  • Tile flooring, sheet flooring, and rolled flooring 
  • Corrugated insulation, woven tapes and plaster-like joint compounds on hot water and steam heating pipes and joints
  • Duct tape
  • Heat resistant asbestos cement panels under and behind wood stoves
  • Stucco
  • TransiteTM exterior siding
  • TransiteTM drain pies

Most buildings constructed before 1980 contain asbestos in some materials, and the amount of asbestos may increase with home age.  

Naturally occurring asbestos, which may be present in rocks or soil in some regions, is less likely to pose health risks compared with the very high concentrations of asbestos released from disturbed building materials.

No one can tell if asbestos is present just by looking at a building material. Samples of building materials MUST be examined under a microscope by a trained professional. If you suspect asbestos is present, DO NOT touch or move the material. Stop work immediately and have a qualified professional complete an asbestos survey. It may take some time to engage a professional after a flood, but asbestos poses minimal risk when left undisturbed.

If asbestos is present, DO NOT open windows or place a blower inside a building to dry it after a flood – this will keep asbestos fibers airborne and increase the fiber concentration in the air as the building begins to dry out.

Only qualified professionals can safely remove asbestos in BC. A qualified person is required to assess the hazard, safely remove the asbestos, and confirm in writing that the asbestos has been safely removed …….

Source: http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/prevention-public-health/asbestos

Asbestos Removal