• Asbestos in your Home

  • If you are completing renovations, restorations, or repairs of your home and hiring a contractor to do it, make sure that they abide by all regulations when conducting the work. In Ontario, Regulation 278/05: Designated Substance – Asbestos on Construction Projects and in Buildings and Repair Operations, provides information relating to the number of samples that a project owner is required to obtain from a work area to ensure that asbestos containing materials (ACM) are not present. So, be mindful and request information from the contractor as to how they will be carrying out the project, and how they are ensuring that their and your safety is protected from asbestos exposure.

    Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous material that was typically obtained through open pit mining. Asbestos gained popularity because of its heat resistant properties, as well as its chemical and biological protective qualities. ACM can be found on a variety of finishes within your home, from attic insulation (vermiculite) to vinyl flooring, plaster, adhesives, caulking, mortar, joint compounds and more. Contractors need to be aware of all the potential locations where ACM may be found and test those materials before a project begins. This ensures that the safety of those working and those within the work area (and the building) is protected. Some ACM require more attention than others when handling. Friable (being able to be crushed under hand pressure) materials can result in expensive additions to your renovation/restoration/repair project, as Type 3 Abatement protocols can be rather costly. A friable material may be plaster, textured coats, or vermiculite insulation. Non-friable materials (not being able to be crushed under hand pressure) typically fall under a Type 2 or 1 Abatement. Examples of non-friable ACM include vinyl floor tiles, caulking, adhesives, and joint compound presence.

    The main concern with asbestos is that its fibers are invisible to the naked eye (about 5 micrometres in length) and when inhaled, these fibers do not exit the body and can result in the development of asbestosis, mesothelioma, or lung cancer. It is no surprise that construction workers are at the highest risk of contracting these asbestos-related diseases.

  • Table 1 of Ontario Regulation 278/05 outlines the minimum number of samples required from homogeneous materials in the work area (see below). A minimum of three (3) distinct samples from different locations need to be obtained per material. So, in a home where work will be completed and the work area possesses a texture-coated ceiling finish (typically decorative), gypsum drywalls (where joint compound may be found), and vinyl flooring (9 by 9-inch tiles, for example), a minimum of three (3) samples need to be obtained from each finish, amounting to a minimum of nine (9) bulk material samples. This can add costs to your project, but there is really no replacement for the safety that this sampling provides.

    So, next time you are completing a renovation/restoration/repair project, talk to your contractor of choice and make sure that they understand their responsibilities when conducting the work. This will ensure that yours and their safety is protected during and after completion of your project!

    Oliver Gonzalez P.Eng. CESA

    Mr. Oliver U. Gonzalez is the President of OGEE Solutions Inc., an environmental engineering and services firm. Mr. Gonzalez is a Professional Engineer (P.Eng.) licensed in the Province of Ontario and holds the accreditation of Qualified Person (QP), as per Ontario Regulation 153/04. Mr. Gonzalez specializes in the areas of Civil and Environmental Engineering and is also instructed in the designations of Certified Mold Inspector (CMI) and Certified Mold Remediator (CMR). Mr. Gonzalez has completed additional training in conducting Phase I and II ESAs through the Associated Environmental Site Assessors of Canada Inc. (AESAC) association and is a Certified Environmental Site Assessor (CESA) – Phase I, under AESAC’s National Certification Programme. Mr. Gonzalez possesses over 16 years of forensic engineering experience and has been involved in hundreds of projects ranging from environmental site assessments, mould and hazardous substances assessments, land contaminant assessments and remediation, as well as litigation support and peer reviews. More information can be found at www.ogeesolutions.com