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Worker Carrying Asbestos Board

Asbestos and Lead: A Comprehensive Look

Asbestos Workers

What you need to know about common hazardous substances that could be risking human health at your property.

Designated Substance Surveys (DSS) include a visual assessment and possible sampling for all Designated Substances listed under the Canadian provincial Occupational Health and Safety Act. These substances include:

  • acrylonitrile

  • arsenic

  • asbestos

  • benzene

  • coke oven emissions

  • ethylene oxide

  • isocyanates

  • lead

  • mercury

  • silica

  • vinyl chloride

 

S2S Environmental has extensive experience carrying out DSS’s at a wide variety of commercial, residential multi-family dwellings and industrial facilities across Canada. Within these settings there are two designated substances that are observed with elevated regularity: Asbestos, and Lead. Both of  these naturally occurring compounds display exceptional physical qualities which has historically resulted in the wide spread adoption of asbestos and lead being incorporated into building materials. 

 

These are some of the main reasons why Asbestos was commonly used in construction:

  1. Fire resistance: Asbestos is highly resistant to heat and fire, making it an ideal material for insulation, fireproofing, and other applications where fire resistance is required.

  2. Durability: Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is extremely durable and resistant to wear and tear. This made it useful in a wide range of building materials, including roofing, flooring, and insulation.

  3. Sound absorption: Asbestos has excellent sound absorption properties, making it useful in soundproofing and acoustic insulation applications.

  4. Chemical resistance: Asbestos is resistant to many chemicals, including acids and alkalis, which made it useful in a wide range of industrial applications.

  5. Cost effectiveness: At the time, asbestos was relatively inexpensive and readily available, which made it a cost-effective material for construction.

 

These are some of the main reasons why Lead was commonly used in construction:

  1. Durability: Lead is a highly durable and malleable metal that can be easily formed into a variety of shapes. This made it useful in a wide range of building materials, including roofing, flashing, and gutters.

  2. Corrosion resistance: Lead is highly resistant to corrosion, which made it useful in applications where exposure to the elements is a concern.

  3. Density: Lead is a dense metal, which makes it useful in applications where weight is a concern, such as in soundproofing materials.

  4. Soundproofing: Lead is an excellent material for soundproofing due to its density and ability to absorb sound waves.

  5. Radiation shielding: Lead is highly effective at blocking radiation, which made it useful in applications such as medical imaging and nuclear power plants.

 

However,  we now know that the exposure to Asbestos and Lead has the potential to pose serious health risks to human health. For asbestos most notably these health effects include lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other respiratory diseases associated with inhalation of asbestos fibres. For lead the most notable health effects include developmental delays, neurological damage, and other health effects associated with ingestion/absorption of Lead. As a result, the use of asbestos in building materials has been heavily regulated or banned in many countries since approximately 1979. Today, alternative materials, such as aluminum and PVC, are used instead of lead for many applications.

 

Asbestos:

As an environmental engineers, identifying building materials that may contain asbestos is an important part of ensuring the safety of building occupants and workers during renovation or demolition activities. Here are some steps to identify building materials that may contain asbestos:

  1. Know the age of the building: Asbestos was commonly used in building materials until production was banned in Canada in 1979. However, stockpiles of asbestos containing building materials were permitted to be used up to the 1990’s. If the building was constructed before the 1990s, there is a higher chance that it may contain asbestos.

  2. Check building plans and specifications: Building plans and specifications may indicate the presence of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) used in construction.

  3. Look for visual signs: ACMs have a distinctive appearance and texture. Look for materials that are gray, white, or brown and have a fibrous appearance. Asbestos can be found in a variety of building materials, including insulation, floor tiles, ceiling tiles, roofing materials, and cement pipes.

  4. Conduct asbestos testing: If visual inspection is inconclusive, it may be necessary to conduct asbestos testing. Samples of suspected ACMs can be collected and analyzed by a laboratory to determine if they contain asbestos.

  5. Consult with a professional: If you are uncertain about the presence of asbestos or the proper handling of ACMs, consult with an environmental consultant or asbestos abatement professional. They can assist in identifying and managing ACMs in a safe and effective manner.

 

Lead:

 

Similarly, identifying building materials that contain lead is an important part of ensuring the safety of building occupants and workers during renovation or demolition activities. Below are some steps to identify building materials that may contain lead:

  1. Know the age of the building: Lead-based paint was commonly used in buildings before 1978. If the building was constructed before this date, there is a higher chance that it may contain lead-based paint.

  2. Check building plans and specifications: Building plans and specifications may indicate the presence of lead-based paint or other materials that contain lead.

  3. Look for visual signs: Lead-based paint may have a thick, chalky texture and can be identified by its characteristic dull gray or yellow color. It may also be found in decorative or ornamental features such as trim, molding, or window sills.

  4. Conduct lead testing: If visual inspection is inconclusive, it may be necessary to conduct lead testing. Samples of suspected materials can be collected and analyzed by a laboratory to determine if they contain lead.

  5. Consult with a professional: If you are uncertain about the presence of lead or the proper handling of lead-containing materials, consult with an environmental consultant or lead abatement professional. They can assist in identifying and managing lead hazards in a safe and effective manner.

 

It is important to note that asbestos-containing materials and lead-containing materials that are intact and in good condition are generally not a risk to human health. However, if ACMs are damaged or to be disturbed, they can release asbestos fibers/lead particles into the air, which can be inhaled and result to serious health effects. Therefore, it is important to identify and manage ACMs and lead containing materials properly to protect the health and safety of building occupants and workers.

 

Abatements:

 

Following the identification of asbestos and lead containing materials within a building/dwelling there are two courses of action:

 

  1. If the materials are observed to be in good condition they can remain in place, and have their condition monitored; or

  2. If these materials are observed to be in poor condition, are at risk of delamination, or are subject to disturbance via renovation and/or demolition activities, these building materials must be removed following abatement procedures outlined within O.Reg 278/05 and O. Reg 833.

 

Proper abatement procedures involve:

 

  • Identifying and quantifying the amount of asbestos/lead containing materials which are to be removed.

  • Developing a plan to build suitable containment enclosures around these ACM’s/LCM’s; remove these ACM’s/LCM’s from their locality; encapsulate the areas in which the ACM’s/LCM’s were removed;  remove these ACM’s/LCM’s from the subject building; and finally securely transport these ACM’s/LCM’s to a facility which accepts hazardous waste.

  • Using specialized tools and personal protective equipment to ensure the safety of all workers and building occupants is maintained throughout the abatement process.

  • The removal process must be carried out carefully and systematically to prevent the release of asbestos or lead particles into the air.

    • Air sampling is often performed to ensure that workers and building occupants are not exposed to hazardous materials. If the concentration of asbestos fibres/lead particles exceeds permissible exposure limits, corrective actions must be implemented to reduce the airborne concentrations of these substances.

 

It is important to note that in addition to the health risks associated with exposure to asbestos and lead, failure to properly abate these hazardous substances can also result in legal and financial liabilities for property owners. If hazardous materials are not removed properly, they can contaminate the surrounding environment and pose a threat to public health.

 

Overall asbestos and lead have been used in construction projects because of their exceptional physical qualities, durability and cost-effectiveness. Unfortunately, we now know that exposure to these substances can pose serious health risks. Today, identifying building materials that may contain asbestos or lead is an important part of ensuring the safety of building occupants and workers. This can be achieved through visual inspection, and review of building plans or specifications. However, relying on the expertise of S2S Environmental Inc. as consultants and abatement professionals is the best way to prevent exposure to these hazardous materials in the future, and ensure a safe and healthy building environment for everyone.

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