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Is asbestos in your home? Know BEFORE you start repairs

Red Deer property inspector urges homeowners to seek help from certified asbestos contractors
Ron McDougall, owner of Lanron Inspections, says being proactive when it comes to identifying potential threats of asbestos is the best thing you can do.

When it comes to building repairs, identifying and managing hazardous materials is paramount. Among these materials, asbestos stands out as a particularly concerning substance due to its widespread historical use and its severe health implications.

In Canada, asbestos has long been utilized for its fireproofing and insulating properties, embedding itself into thousands of homes and buildings across the country. However, the lasting toll it exacts on human health, with as many as 1,900 lung cancer diagnosis annually attributed to asbestos, underscores the need for action to address this pervasive threat.

Historically, asbestos was used in various construction materials, including cement, plaster, insulation, siding and tiles, among others. Its fire-resistant and durable nature made it a popular choice for enhancing building safety and longevity. However, the adverse health effects of asbestos exposure, particularly its link to diseases such as mesothelioma and lung cancer, have prompted regulatory efforts to curb its usage.

The Canadian government’s decision to officially ban asbestos by 2018 represented a significant step forward in safeguarding public health. However, the legacy of asbestos remains deeply entrenched within existing structures, posing continued risks to both occupants and workers.

Ron McDougall, a Lacombe County home and building inspector of 17 years and owner of Lanron Inspections, says being proactive when it comes to identifying potential threats of asbestos is the best course of action.

With homes built before 1990, homeowners undertaking repairs or renovation projects should exercise caution when it comes to features such as old linoleum floor tiles, ceiling tiles and insulation, electric panels and wiring insulation, for example, McDougall says. Other areas include fire-proof panels and gaskets found in fireplaces as well as textured paints and coatings used on walls and ceilings.

If you happen to believe there is a chance your home contains asbestos, McDougall recommends this four-step approach to safely address the area of concern:

  1. Do not disturb or attempt removal yourself: If you find asbestos in your home, don’t disturb it. Trying to remove it yourself can release harmful fibres into the air. Instead, hire certified asbestos contractors with the right skills and equipment for safe handling and removal.
  2. Limit access to contaminated areas: Restrict access to areas with asbestos to minimize exposure. Use barriers like plastic sheeting to contain fibers. Inform family, especially children, about asbestos and its dangers. Get professional assessment and testing to confirm asbestos presence. Certified inspectors assess risk and provide accurate analysis, guiding safe remediation decisions.
  3. Develop a remediation plan: After confirming asbestos is in your home, work with certified contractors for a tailored removal plan. Include containment, removal and disposal steps, with safety measures and timelines. Choose licensed, insured, experienced contractors for compliance with regulations and best practices, ensuring safety for all involved.
  4. Monitor air quality during and after remediation: During asbestos removal, monitor air quality to ensure fibers are contained. Air monitors measure fiber concentration, giving real-time data on containment effectiveness. Test post-removal to confirm the area’s safety before returning.

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