Which homes have asbestos?
In Canada, thousands of homes still currently contain an asbestos laced material of one type or another. Everything from roofing tiles to pipe cement has been manufactured with asbestos fiber and installed into Canadian homes due to its low cost and fantastic insulating properties.
In some areas of the country, as many as 98% of the homes manufactured before the year 1976 contained at least one type of asbestos product.
While the use of asbestos has been limited for the most part past the 1980’s, asbestos use was not officially banned until 2003.
The most common form of asbestos containing material existing in Canadian residences is asbestos sheeting with over half of asbestos based products being of this variety.
How can I tell if it is asbestos?
It is not safe or even legal for anyone to perform a visual only inspection for asbestos to clear an area for demolition. The main reason for this is because many of the newer asbestos product alternatives look identical to their older asbestos based counterparts and are impossible to differentiate otherwise.
To be certain the building you plan on renovating is free of asbestos, a certified environmental specialist will need to sample all potential asbestos containing materials from the property in question and have them tested at an accredited laboratory for clearance.
Only once a certified environmental consultant has cleared the building can building demolition/renovation plans commence.
When is asbestos the most dangerous? What types?
Asbestos on its own is normally harmless when left untouched. It isn’t typically until the asbestos containing material is damaged, disturbed, or removed that it becomes a potential health and safety issue.
Depending on the type of asbestos you’re dealing with, the process for handling it will most likely be a little different.
The 2 Types of Asbestos Products
Bonded asbestos materials comprised of asbestos fiber and a cement base have been used for a variety of home construction applications including insulating boards, circuit boards, electrical panels, ceiling tiles, wall linings, and partitions. Asbestos fiber isn’t usually released from these building materials until it is cut or damaged.
Loosely Bound Asbestos
Loosely bound asbestos, unlike the bonded variety, is not typically used in residential structures to insulate; rather in commercial buildings to fire and sound proof them. While fiberglass has mostly replaced loose fill asbestos based insulation, some private residences still do have some loose bound asbestos insulation around heaters, stoves, hot water systems, and pipes. Loose fill asbestos insulation can also still be occasionally found in residential attics as well as underneath vinyl and linoleum floor coverings.
While bonded asbestos products are rigid and are rather easy to dispose of (while general personal protective is in use), loosely bound asbestos products are highly dangerous and can free asbestos fiber into the air with only slight agitation. It should only be handled with an extensive containment policy being followed.
Does asbestos removal require professional help?
Whether you are working with bonded or loosely bound asbestos products in your home or business, a professional asbestos consultant should be called on to make the determination as to what should be the appropriate course of action to properly remediate the product at hand.
Common safeguards for asbestos removal include personal protective equipment, (ventilation equipment and suits) water soaking to reduce dust loads, and multiple containment barriers setup under negative pressure to contain the asbestos fibers “freed” during the remediation process.
Where in the home is asbestos found?
A list of areas an environmental consultant will want to check for asbestos is as follows:
Bathroom, toilet and laundry
Commercial or industrial buildings
Asbestos cement sheeting used in walls, ceilings and floors
Hot water pipes set into masonry walls
Lagging on hot water pipes
Insulation in wood heaters
Asbestos cement sheeting beneath heater hearths
Vinyl floor tiles
Backing to cushion vinyl flooring
Hot water pipes set into masonry walls
Flat, patterned and corrugated wall and roof sheeting
Imitation brick cladding
Lining under eaves
Garages and carports
Coating sprayed on beams for fireproofing
Wrap on pipes and boilers
Sheeting in roofs and walls
Do I need permission to remove asbestos in Toronto GTA / Ontario?
Permits are required for Type 3 asbestos removal work as they are of high risk for sending asbestos fiber airborne.
If a homeowner is planning on doing any renovation to their home and will be removing any section of asbestos material greater than 9 x 9 Ft in size (Type 3), a permit from the ministry of safety will be required before the asbestos remediation process may begin. Pipes containing asbestos laced material 21 Ft or longer will also legally require a ministry permit.
In the case of a Type 3 job, post clearance-air quality testing will also be required to certify the area as safe to inhabit once remediation work is completed. A trained environmental consultant will need to perform this testing to comply with the law.
Bill 43C- All employers are responsible for maintaining a safe working environment for their employees. All asbestos pre-testing, removal, and clearance must be followed according to state mandated protocol to prevent employee harm. For this reason, a trained environmental consultant such as our own should be employed to see through the entire process of asbestos remediation to completion.
What is with the vermiculite scare?
Vermiculite is common mineral used in the past and somewhat still today as an insulating material for household attics and businesses. While newer vermiculite insulation is generally safe, a large amount older vermiculite insulation still in existence is not.
Separating dangerous vermiculite insulation from the harmless variety is the trace presence of asbestos. Asbestos, a commonly known carcinogen, found it’s way into mined vermiculite during the 70’s and 80’s by mistake and is the primary reason why the booming vermiculite remediation industry exists today.
To get specific, vermiculite mined by one manufacturer, Zonolite, is the primary culprit for asbestos vermiculite contamination. Many lawsuits have disseminated since the news of what Zonolite has done and serves as a basis for understanding the dangers of asbestos contaminated vermiculite.
What does vermiculite insulation look like?
Vermiculite insulation has many different appearances with most of the insulation out there holding a black, pebble like appearance. Take a look at the photos below to see for yourself the great differences in appearance vermiculite insulation may have. Both contaminated and uncontaminated varieties are shown demonstrating the similarities between them.
What damage can vermiculite insulation cause?
If the vermiculite insulation installed in your home is indeed contaminated with asbestos, the possibility of that asbestos reaching other areas of your home is quite high if ever disturbed.
When vermiculite insulation contaminated with asbestos is agitated, asbestos fibers are sent airborne and can be inhaled by those inhabiting the surrounding space very easily. Asbestos fibers can also travel to other parts of the home through ventilation ducts and other transport methods.
Once asbestos reaches the lungs, irritation caused by asbestos fiber can lead to cancer. Usually this process takes many years, and will be exacerbated by smoking or inhaling other substances that cause mechanical damage to the lungs. The more asbestos fiber that ultimately is inhaled, the greater the individual’s risk is for cancer.
The resale value of your home may also be severely affected as a result of vermiculite insulation being discovered during a pre-sale home inspection unless it has been verified as likely free of asbestos. Improperly removed vermiculite can also lead to problems selling the home.
How do I know if my vermiculite has asbestos?
If your home’s attic was insulated/reinsulated before the year 1990, there is a good chance the vermiculite in your home is contaminated with asbestos.
It is impossible to tell with a visual inspection alone if the vermiculite insulation in your attic is truly contaminated with asbestos or not. A certified asbestos assessor should be employed to advise you regarding this subject if you are in doubt. He or she will be using a battery of asbestos tests to try to confirm or deny the presence of asbestos for you.
If an asbestos test is carried out by a certified asbestos assessor and the results have been displayed negative, trace amounts of asbestos may still be present as test results will only represent the actual material being tested. Multiple installations of vermiculite insulation could have resulted in uncontaminated vermiculite being layered over contaminated varieties therefore some possibility always exists of asbestos fiber being present. Because test results are never completely conclusive when it comes to asbestos testing, many simply remove all vermiculite thought to be laid down before the year 1990.
To achieve the highest testing accuracy possible, vermiculite asbestos samples should be taken from the lowest point in the attic as asbestos will tend to settle to the bottom of the attic in question with time.
How should / does asbestos contaminated vermiculite get removed?
Vermiculite removal is a dangerous procedure which requires remediation workers to have proper personal protection equipment for the procedure.
Vermiculite removal without the use of personal protective equipment is a direct health hazard for anyone tasked with vermiculite remediation as asbestos can travel through most common dust masks as well as stick to clothing allowing it to be transported outside of the contamination area.
Vermiculite remediation, when performed by certified contractors, usually involves sucking the vermiculite out from a hole in the roof via an industrial sized HEPA vacuum system minimizing the chance of asbestos exposure outside of the home’s attic area. This level of precision afforded with the correct equipment and operating procedure is well worth the money spent.
Certified vermiculite remediators will understand the importance of properly isolating your attic from the rest of your home as to contain any asbestos fiber stirred up during remediation process as well as to clean up any remnants of asbestos or vermiculite dust left over after the job is completed to safeguard residents of that home over the long term. Certified individuals will also properly dispose of any hazardous material responsibly.
How do I know if I have a problem with mold contamination?
Have you been researching mold due to persistent and seemingly untreatable cold like symptoms? Many people who are affected by mold contamination suffer for years before doing anything about their problems as medical professionals often misdiagnose these symptoms as simple viruses or bacterial infections.
If cold like symptoms are not dissipating on their own or despite treatment efforts, it may be time for a mold assessment.
What health symptoms are related to mold contamination?
Symptoms Related To Mold Contamination
There are 3 separate categories of problems mold can create for the mold sufferer:
- Symptoms Related to Allergies.
- Mold Toxicity Issues
- Mold Related Infections
Symptoms Related to Allergies.
Mostly all mold related symptoms are related to allergies. When mold spores are inhaled, the body reacts via an allergic reaction. Allergic reactions are well warranted as they act as the body’s first line of defense against mold.
The longer a person is exposed to mold, the more sensitive they will become to mold spores. Over longer periods of time, more frequent allergic reactions will be triggered as the body becomes less tolerant to them. These allergic reactions will also increase in severity the longer a person is exposed to airborne mold spores.
An allergic reaction to mold could be associated with the following symptoms:
- Cold or flu like symptoms
- Sore throat
- Irritated, itchy throat
- Blocked nose
- Itchy nose
- Runny nose
- Sinus congestion
- Sinus headaches
- Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath
- Irritated, itchy skin
- Skin rash, hives
- Watery eyes
- Red, bloodshot eyes
- Itchy eyes
- Itchy ears
- Hair loss, baldness
- Hay fever symptoms
There are over 16 different mold species that are considered toxic to humans. Mold species on this list produce mycotoxins which are poisonous to the human body.
If you have been in direct contact with a mycotoxin, a reaction worse than what a simple allergy would cause will be triggered. Symptoms from myotoxin exposure may include internal bleeding, organ damage, mental impairment, cancer, or even death.
The most common mold strain that produces mycotoxins is, stachybotrys chartarum, often known as black mold, and can be found pretty much anywhere in the home where excessive moisture is present.
Mold that winds up embedded in lung tissue will sometimes grow on its own as the lungs provide the perfect environment for mold to grow. Mold may also grow inside the sinus passages or even in the human digestive system if mold concentrations in the home are particularly high.
While healthy individuals should be able to fight off mold before an infection can take place, older or immune-compromised individuals are highly susceptible to infections whereby mold growth is rampant in the home. As a problem with mold contamination gets worse, the likelihood of developing a mold related infection greatly increases. Many cases of mold related deaths are on the books with many more taking place each year due to ignorance regarding the subject.
Species of mold that pay a significant role in mold related infections include penicllium, trichoderma, and aspergillus.
What are the signs / causes of mold contamination?
There are many clues to look for when attempting to identify a mold contamination issue in your home.
Out of the various signs of systemic mold contamination, a list is as follows:
- Musty Odors
- Visible Mold Growth
- Signs Of Water Intrusion
- Past Flooding
- Condensation / High Humidity
- Health Related Issues
Issues with mold are easier to predict when multiple signs of mold growth are present.
Even though mold may not always be visible to a homeowner, smell permeating from active mold growth is almost always noticeable. Mold growth behind walls, in attics, behind wallpaper, or under paneling will permeate an odor if active.
If you smell a musty smell in your home, it is best to secure a mold assessment form a certified environmental specialist to evaluate the presence of airborne mold spores. Early detection will limit any existing damage to your residence as well as protect your family from inhalation of dangerous mold.
Visible Mold Growth In More Than One Area
Visible mold growth in as little as one area of your home will be enough to warrant a professional mold assessment to determine the extent of your mold contamination issue. Discolorations in drywall, wood, or concrete appearing as dirt or other debris should be investigated further.
Mold may not always be black; other common colors include red, pink, green, white, tan, and more. Mold can be mostly any color depending on the type or strain you are dealing with. If the area in question is in doubt, a simple laboratory test can identify with certainty if the mold in question is really mold.
Signs Of Water Intrusion
As water makes its way into the house, almost always does it become a future problem for the homeowner. Grading problems around the home are one common way water enters the home as is clogged gutters which allow rain water to enter cracks in the homes foundation. Leaking pipes are another common source of water intrusion in the home leading to mold contamination in almost every case.
If you notice a spotty discoloration in your home’s walls, ceilings, or floors, you most likely are experiencing water intrusion. Water stains of this type should provide cause to believe mold is forming on the other side of the stain in question.
Another sign of water intrusion would be bubbling, peeling, or cracking of your homes paint or wallpaper. Water soaked building materials will either bulge in or out as they lose their original structural integrity. If these potential problematic materials are moist to the touch, you will know that your relative mold risk is high.
If your home has flooded in the past year, there is a high chance you have some mold growth as a result— especially if the property was not properly restored soon after the flood. Water soaked drywall or wood will not usually dry out quick enough to prevent mold growth from occurring. Basements are the typical culprits for obvious reasons and will have mold growing everywhere water has reached including cinder blocks that line unfinished basements.
High humidity in the home will lead to condensation formation on the walls, pipes, and on the windows of a property. Moisture in the air will not usually form condensation on surface materials until humidity levels raise above 70% RH. Any amount of condensation in the home should be taken as a sign of mold growth as mold thrives in a humid environment.
Standing water anywhere in the home will almost certainly raise your humidity levels as will improper ventilation in the home’s bathrooms. A home without proper air conditioning can also create issues with humidity over time. Check for structural problems in your home when humidity levels rise to unacceptable levels or consult with an environmental specialist to receive advice on how to do this properly.
Is radon gas a poision?
Radon is the abundant radioactive gas that has a lot of people talking. It’s everywhere, it is unavoidable.
Radon isn’t normally a danger to humans, however like everything else in this world, excess creates danger.
How do I know when I am at risk for radon exposure?
Radon is created through the radioactive decay of uranium in the soil. As radon is formed, the gas permeates from soil and is released slowly into the atmosphere.
While this process isn’t usually a cause for concern, manmade structures have a knack for collecting and concentrating radon gas to levels considered unsafe for human exposure and inhalation.
If you live in an area plagued with uranium rich soil, your home runs a much higher risk of accumulating unsafe levels of Radon. By looking at the map below, you can see which areas of Canada have greater concentrations of uranium so you may self-assess your Radon exposure risk.
While some areas of Canada have more Radon than others, it is important to know your radon exposure risk.
A professional radon assessment will serve to determine exactly how much radon is accumulating in your home as it seeps through the cracks in your home’s foundation. Without the proper ventilation systems in your home to displace radon gas underneath your foundation in areas with rich uranium deposits, the chances of having Radon gas build up to dangerous levels in your home are quite high.
How do I test for radon?
There are two types of tests we use to monitor radon concentration levels, of which are chosen based upon our clients individual needs.
Short Term Tests- Carried out with an industry approved Radalink Radon monitor, a 48 hour radon test will determine the exact concentration of Radon particles existing in your homes air averaged over the entire time period. Samples taken hourly ensure our Radon risk assessment is as accurate as possible.
Long Term Tests- Our long term radon tests look for trace alpha radiation particles released by biproducts of radon and are considered by the industry to be a more accurate measurement of Radon in the home if you have the time to wait for the test to be completed. Long term radon testing provide a better picture of the total Radon concentration in a home by smoothing out any radon fluctuations over time and eliminating variations in radon emission by season. More accurate long term test data can eliminate the need for expensive radon mitigation systems if Radon levels have shown to be borderline acceptable with previous short term radon testing.
How dangerous is radon to me?
If left unchecked, radon may attribute to lung cancer through the inhalation of radioactive radon biproducts. The higher the radon concentrations are in the home, the greater the exposure to radiation.
Because radon is absent of taste or smell unlike most other household contaminates, proactive Radon monitoring is important to prevent adverse health risks.
Smokers will be extremely susceptible to lung cancer caused by Radon gas. If you do smoke, it should be essential for you to subscribe to a yearly Radon testing to identify any issues with elevated household Radon levels before it has had a chance to affect your health.
What can I do about radon if I have it?
If it is determined that the levels of Radon in your home are above levels considered ‘actionable’ or cancer causing, a radon mitigation strategy will need to be enacted to rectify your problem.
By consulting with an environmental company such as our own, the radon mitigation plan created will have clear set of instructions informing the radon mitigation contractor you’re working with on how to properly ventilate excess radon gas from your home. Mitigation strategies will vary depending on the aspects and architecture of the home making each assessment we create unique.
How do I know if radon Is truly gone after mitigation strategies are enacted?
The mitigation contractor you are working will need to be able to reduce radon below ‘action levels’ or levels considered safe to live with, otherwise radon mitigation systems and planning enacted will have been considered inadequate for you the customer- do not settle for a simple reduction in Radon.
Many times radon mitigation companies will perform their own post mitigation clearance testing to ensure Radon levels have been reduced to safe levels after a radon mitigation system has been installed. These results should be taken with a grain of salt however as there is a direct conflict of interest associated with the mitigation contractor you have hired doing a post clearance test.
Post mitigation radon testing is available by our firm to confirm Radon levels in your home are safe. No conflict of interest exists by hiring us for post clearance testing as we are not in the mitigation services business, nor will we ever be in the future.
If radon levels have not been reduced to industry acceptable levels in your home after a recommended radon mitigation system has been installed, the option for us to consult directly with your radon mitigation contractor exists.
How do I know if have lead paint?
Lead, found in many older homes, is an increasingly troublesome neurotoxin affecting thousands of adults and children alike each year in Canada.
Lead dust and/or paint chips lining window sills, doors, and walls of older homes has been creating a household hazard for those who are unaware of the dangers surrounding lead.
Even though there are several ways to tell if an older home is a lead threat, a visual inspection alone will never provide the means for a clear determination.
What are the different types of lead threats?
Paint flaking off of window sills, doors, or walls should always be treated as a potential health risk for small children. Consumption of paint chips can cause irreversible brain damage and should be avoided at all costs.
Home renovation projects that create dust in the process of cutting or abrasing materials with lead paint on them is also a huge problem. Lead dust inhaled by renovation workers or building inhabitants sets the stage for long term lead exposure.
What is the safest / best way to test for lead?
It is advisable for homeowners to assume all paint in older homes is contaminated with lead until proven otherwise.
While DIY lead paint tests are commonly available, it is in-advised to do lead testing yourself as the margin for error is high. A certified lead assessor will have the proper experience to perform lead testing at a 100% accuracy level.
How do I / can I remove lead paint myself?
Some individuals feel they can remove lead paint from a wall or other substrate themselves. While this may be possible with a paint scraper or other hand tool, toxic dust can be released if sanders are used creating an even bigger health hazard. Even if basic precautionary measures are taken such as the worker wearing personal protective equipment making sure the area is properly quarantined beforehand, lead based paint dust will still remain behind afterwards if proper abatement procedure is not followed.
A certified lead paint assessor can accurately compose a plan to safely remove lead based paint in your home AND completely contain the dust created during the abatement process without putting renovation workers at risk. Since the process to safely remove lead based paint is typically complicated, a certified lead abatement contractor is usually required to perform the required abatement procedure.
Words Of Wisdom
During a home sale, if lead dust happens to be found in a home via a surface sample or air quality test, the cost of the home will decrease dramatically as the home will be considered contaminated until proven otherwise. In this type of situation, previous lead abatement was likely not performed according to best abatement practices.
On the flip side of this, if a large renovation project was recently completed on an older home that you notice as a home buyer, a professional lead assessment of the building can lower the asking price of the home significantly and protect your family against lead exposure.
How do I safely contain and mitigate lead paint danger?
Chipped paint or paint dust that exceeds industry accepted concentrations of lead should be either encapsulated or abated. Encapsulation of problematic paint should only be an option if the appropriate repairs have been made to keep newly applied paint in acceptable order.
If encapsulation is the choice to contain lead based paint, ensure an industry approved encapsulant is used with it’s application performed within industry standards.
If lead abatement is the choice to contain lead based paint, a professional lead abatement contractor should be utilized to complete the prescribed lead abatement procedure.
Why should I hire you? What types of problems can you identify for me?
We are primarily an air quality testing company and test indoor air quality for airborne contaminates. If you or someone in your family is ill from breathing in potential airborne toxins, we can confirm your suspicions and inform you as to the specific airborne contaminate that you may be coming in contact with. We also provide moisture level checks to complement our air quality testing services to round out our testing data provided to you.
What do you test for specifically and what causes it?
We can test your home or place of business for over two dozen airborne contaminates including bacteria, mold, VOC’s, dust particulate, pesticides, carbon monoxide and more. Testing and the resulting reporting often targets specific types of airborne contaminates; however, comprehensive full panel diagnostic tests are also available.
For mold contamination and growth, flooding and leaky water sources are the primary culprit and are the primary airborne contaminate our company focuses our attention on. Sewer backups, problems with ventilation equipment, lack of household hygiene and other similar problems create the breeding ground for indoor air contaminates.
After you figure out what the problem is, will you be able to tell me what to do about it?
Our company not only provides testing services, but can also assess the extent of any damage caused by contaminates that we identify. Using advanced diagnostic equipment, the assessor that arrives to test your home or office will also be able to map out a ‘scope of work’ needed to remediate or correct your contamination problem upon receiving a positive test result from lab. Remediation contractors will be able to refer to this scope of work as to take any guesswork out of what they will need to do to complete their job.
What other parties will be involved in the process?
The personnel that arrive at your location to capture an air quality sample will not be the ones performing the actual lab testing of samples collected that day. To ensure the highest level of accuracy in our air quality assessments, we employ the use of a third party testing laboratory to provide us with the scientific results you will see in our air quality reports. It is the basis of our determination in whether or not you have the levels of contaminates necessary to be considered toxic.
Once I know I have a positive test result, what do I need to do?
By reading our attached report and custom write-up, you will know the type of professional to call on. The party you will call on will depend on the offending material found on your premises.
What happens if I do not want to carry out the recommended changes if I am renting the property?
In most cases, failure to carry out our recommendations would be considered negligence in the eyes of the law. A tenant may only move out, but very possibly, more drastic measures are indeed available to those who are disgruntled. A lawsuit may commence as well as the tenant refusing to pay his or her rent until remediation of the offending material is completed.
To what certification standard does your organization operate?
Canada environmental follows IICRC standards for proper air quality testing. A typical air quality testing procedure requires a certified third party laboratory and an environmental air quality constant to be established at each test site through the collection of an air sample from directly outside the premises. Test result confidentially can also be expected between us and our clients.