Date: May 21, 2019

Mainly cloudy. Wind becoming southeast 20 km/h overnight. Low 6.

Temp
7.5C

Environment Canada
Text Size >   A   A   A

Printer Friendly

Extreme Temperatures

Extreme Heat and Your Health

Severe Cold Weather

Sun Safety

Asbestos

Questions & Answers

This page was reviewed or revised on Thursday, June 9, 2016 9:07 AM

Asbestos is the commercial name for a family of minerals that separate into dust fibres when crushed. When the fibres are inhaled into the lungs, the lungs cannot expel the fibres.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s, asbestos was commonly used for fireproofing (sprayed on steel beams in homes and businesses), heat insulation (on pipes, and on heating and venting ducts) and noise insulation (in ceilings and walls). In 1973, the use of asbestos as pipe and boiler insulation on heating systems was stopped. Thus, many older houses still have asbestos-containing material.

The simple presence of asbestos is itself not dangerous. The risk comes when the asbestos is disturbed and the fibres are released into the environment.

It is wise to periodically check materials (e.g. insulation) for signs of deterioration or disturbances. If a homeowner notices an asbestos containing material has been disturbed, a professional should be called to assess the situation. Do not vacuum or sweep up the material, as that will increase the number of air borne fibres released.

When doing renovations or repairs, homeowners should not disturb asbestos containing materials. A professional should be consulted on the proper removal.

It can be noted that no deaths due to acute asbestos exposure have been recorded. However, high levels of exposure in an occupational setting have been associated with numerous diseases.

Click here to view the fact sheet about ‘Asbestos’ produced by Health Canada.


Asbestos Q&A


What is asbestos?

Asbestos is the name of a group of highly fibrous minerals. It is found naturally in rock formations around the world. Asbestos fibres are strong, durable, and do not burn which is why they were widely used by industry, mainly in construction and friction materials. There are two general types of asbestos; amphibole and chrysotile. All forms of asbestos are hazardous, and all can cause cancer, but amphibole forms of asbestos are considered to be somewhat more hazardous to health than chrysotile.

How might I be exposed to asbestos?

Asbestos fibres can be detected in the environment from the breakdown of natural deposits and manufactured asbestos products, as well as from manufacturing and industrial activity. Asbestos fibres do not evaporate into air or dissolve in water and are not able to move through soil. Small diameter fibres can travel long distances by wind or water. Larger diameter fibres tend to settle more quickly. Asbestos fibres do not easily breakdown and will remain virtually unchanged over long periods.

Asbestos fibres may be released into the air by the disturbance of asbestos-containing material during construction, demolition work, building or home maintenance, repair, and remodelling. In general, exposure may occur only when the asbestos-containing material is disturbed in some way to release particles and fibres into the air.

What are the health risks?

Asbestos poses health risks only when fibres are in the air that people breathe. If the asbestos fibres stay enclosed or tightly bound in a material or product there is no significant health risk.

When inhaled in significant quantities, asbestos fibres can cause:

  • asbestosis—a scarring of the lungs that makes breathing difficult
  • mesothelioma—an otherwise rare cancer of the lining of the chest or abdominal cavity
  • lung cancer

High exposure levels over a long time period result in these illnesses, especially if combined with smoking tobacco. Many people have no symptoms at all for up to 15 to 30 years after being exposed to asbestos.

How big is the risk to my health?

Risk depends on the level of exposure. Most asbestos exposure is through work (occupational). Asbestos does not move in the ground or dissolve in the air, so you can only be exposed by inhaling the particles. The risk is also increased in any person smoking tobacco.

I've spent a significant amount of time in Centennial Park and attended many special events there throughout the years.

Should I be concerned? How will I know if my kids were exposed?

Exposure occurs only when asbestos-containing material is disturbed in some way to release particles and fibres into the air. Asbestos does not move through the soil or dissolve in the air.

How do I find out if I have been exposed to asbestos?

Health risks of asbestos exposure depend on:

  • the amount of asbestos fibres in the air
  • how long your exposure lasts
  • how often you were exposed
  • the size of the asbestos fibres inhaled
  • the amount of time since your first exposure
  • the type of asbestos fibre

Is there a medical test to show whether I've been exposed to asbestos?

A thorough history, physical exam, and diagnostics tests are needed to evaluate asbestos-related disease. Symptoms of asbestos exposure take a number of years to develop but often begin with a shortness of breath. Chest x-rays may be used a screening tool to identify lung changes resulting from asbestos exposure. Visit your health care provider if you have concerns related to asbestos exposure.

Related link on this website

Air Pollutants