When moving into or renovating an old home, keeping your indoor air quality free of contaminants is an important, and often forgotten, step of the construction process. Your indoor air quality isn’t just affected by dust, paint, or sealants, but can be very seriously affected by the materials used in construction itself. Many older homes and buildings were constructed when indoor air quality wasn’t a concern, and materials that are no longer approved for use may be polluting your indoor air quality. While lead pipes or knob-and-tube wiring can cause other serious problems, they don’t affect your indoor air quality. But asbestos does, and many older homes have it hiding all over the place.You may be surprised to learn asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral. Made up of fine, durable fibers, it is resistant to heat, fire, and many different kinds of chemicals, and is an excellent lightweight insulator. Because of these properties, when it was first introduced in the 1930s it was lauded as a miracle product and was incorporated into all types of building materials like siding, floor tiles, insulation and roofing.
The hidden danger of asbestos is not when it is sitting on the side of your home or is wrapped around a pipe – it begins to affect your health and indoor air quality when it is disturbed and its fine particles become airborne. Once it is part of your indoor air quality, asbestos particles can be inhaled or swallowed, where they get stuck in your lungs or abdomen.
Asbestos in your indoor air quality is unlikely to cause any immediate symptoms, but the body has a difficult time expelling the asbestos fibers, and repeated exposure will begin to show anywhere from 10-50 years. Many workers exposed to asbestos fibers from poor indoor air quality in factories or on job sites in the 1950s and 60s may only now be beginning to show symptoms of diseases like pleural mesothelioma or asbestosis. These workers often polluted their home’s indoor air quality too, by unknowingly bringing home dust-filled clothing and protective gear.
Asbestos use is now strictly regulated by governments, and in places where it can affect indoor air quality, protective gear and health and safety procedures need to be in place. Canada will ban asbestos in 2018, after being one of the biggest producers and miners of the mineral for 141 years. Ottawa is aiming to work with the provinces to create new workplace rules that will drastically limit on the job exposure to asbestos, and to create better building codes to protect your indoor air quality and use of asbestos-related materials in building practices.
If you are renovating an old home and have concerns about asbestos or your indoor air quality, it’s best to have a licensed professional come and inspect anything you suspect is, or contains asbestos. As it is only hazardous when airborne, it won’t affect your indoor air quality unless it is loose, frayed, or crumbling. Because of the danger to your health and indoor air quality, having proper containment and protection when dealing with asbestos is a top priority, and a professional team will know how to expertly remove and repair old asbestos to keep you and your family safe.