Do you have abestos in your home? This is the question my son in grade 11 asked me the other day after just going back to school. He’s taking carpentry and joininery to get his red seal certificate, something to fall back on after he goes to the fire academy.
I looked at my son and said: “No, I don’t think so.” That’s when he came out with a slew of information on asbestos and why homes like ours built before 1980 should be checked for the cancer causing mineral.
So what is asbestos exactly?
Asbestos are fibres used in homes commonly in Canada prior to 1980 when building. Asbestos can be found in insulation, basement boilers, pipes, attics, vinyl flooring, linoleum, window caulking and glazing, roofing materials, duct insulation, siding, plaster, and ceilings. The minerals making up asbestos were used to make building materials longer lasting and fire retardant.
Why is Asbestos Bad?
Breathing in asbestos fibres can cause cancer and other diseases, such as scarring of the lungs, difficulty breathing, lung cancer and mesothelioma which is a rare cancer of the lining of the chest or abdominal cavity.
Canada’s mesothelioma cancer rate is now one of the highest in the world, my son told me. 2.1 of 100,000 Canadians are diagnosed every year with the aggressive disease, according to experts. It’s such a risk that now there is talk about setting up Mesothelioma Trust Funds so that victims can be paid, and heavy litigation can be avoided.
Okay so after hearing this, I kinda freaked a little, but that’s when my son told me as long as materials containing asbestos are tightly bound, in good condition, sealed behind walls and floorboards, isolated and left undisturbed there is no real risk. But what about my popcorn ceilings? One of the worst carriers for asbestos, and found in most older homes like ours. So we took to checking things out.
Jake and I went room to room, looking at the window sills, the attic door latching, the baseboards and even in the storage closets. He taught me to seek out any holes, divots or grooves that could be open and we repaired what we found. I had no idea that so many older homes and so many Canadians in fact, have had to deal with this issue of asbestos.
So what should you do if you discover asbestos in your home?
Don’t touch it! I mean seriously don’t touch it! Touching asbestos can actually create more of it. Apparently wet it down, don’t use your hands, use gloves and call an abatement crew to handle the situation is best. Unlike fibreglass, which you can breathe in and cough out. Asbestos tacks itself to your lungs with it’s tiny fibrous barbs, actually hooking into the lining as you breathe. So the less you breathe it in the better.
All in all, this is pretty scary stuff and I’m glad my son came home interested enough to talk to me about it, to help make sure our home is safe and sound. This first week back to school has been educational and enlightening for me.