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
- 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 using accepted methods and processes.
The potential for untrained, inexperienced, and improperly equipped homeowners being exposed to asbestos fibers is significant, even when precautions are taken. Wearing a well-fitted N-95 mask is not sufficient to protect you from asbestos. Exposure to asbestos, whether during remediation or living in the home afterward, can result in permanent respiratory impairment, lung cancer, and death.
If waste containing asbestos is not transported according to strict regulations, homeowners can face fines and can be refused access to the approved waste disposal sites. Inadequate cleanup can result in continued asbestos exposure, which is a health risk for anyone living in or entering the home and a potential future liability when selling the property.
Asbestos removal work should be performed by an experienced and insured asbestos abatement contractor. Check the BC Association of Restoration Contractors
for potential companies that can assist with asbestos testing and removal.
If the property is a workplace or multi-purpose (combined residence and farm, daycare, small business, etc.) and has employees or workers (including contractors) WorkSafeBC
requires that a qualified person conduct a hazardous material survey to identify the materials that contain asbestos. If asbestos is found, a qualified abatement contractor must remove it.
A qualified person such as a Certified Industrial Hygienist, Registered Occupational Hygienist, Registered Occupational Technologist, Certified Safety Professional, Canadian Registered Safety Professional or a Professional Engineer with education and experience in asbestos management and work procedures must verify that the worksite air is safe, following the completion of the asbestos removal work.
A notice of project
(NOP-H) must also be submitted to WorkSafeBC for all asbestos work by a qualified abatement firm at least 48 hours prior to abatement starting.
A municipal Flood Restoration Permit might be required for exterior wall and roofing work, such accessing poured or blown-in insulation containing asbestos (Zonolite™/vermiculite). Check with your municipality building department for details.