Asbestos Testing

New Home buyers have a lot of questions about indoor air quality and asbestos; most home owners will spend at least one-third of their time inside their home breathing the air and any contaminates.

The Orillia Home Inspector has many years experience in identifying possible asbestos and also has the capability of performing Air Quality Testing.  Air Quality Testing involves taking a Base Line Sample from a clear area outside the home and then taking samples in any areas the client is concerned about.

What is Asbestos?

When asbestos is used for its resistance to fire or heat, the fibers are often mixed with cement or woven into fabric or mats. These desirable properties made asbestos very widely used. Asbestos use continued to grow through most of the 20th century until public knowledge of the health hazards of asbestos dust outlawed asbestos in most countries.  Some of common uses for asbestos are:

  • Vermiculite insulation
  • 9”x9” floor tiles
  • Acoustic ceiling tiles
  • White tape on heating ducts
  • Insulation on boiler pipes and boilers
  • Old asbestos cement siding
  • Popcorn ceiling texture
  • Glues used under flooring

Asbestos Locations

Why is Asbestos Bad?

Asbestos is bad because the tiny abrasive fibers are inhaled into the lungs where they can damage the lung tissue. This seems to be exacerbated by cigarette smoking and the resulting diseases are asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer.

Asbestos is a very dangerous carcinogen and that is why any analysis needs to be handled accurately, and safely. Prolonged inhalation of the material can lead to a variety of diseases (including lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis). It is especially important to rid an area of asbestos if there are children present as they are even more susceptible to the dangers of long term inhalation. If an uncontrolled disturbance occurs, the asbestos fibers can remain airborne for up to 72 hours (3 days).

How Do I Know If I Have Asbestos in My House?

As Asbestos can only be 100% identified using a microscope all samples should be sent to a Certified Laboratory.  The Orillia Home Inspector can take samples from areas in your home and have them sent out for testing.  A Chain of Custody form is required to be filled out and sent with sample.

What Should I Do If I Have Asbestos in My House?

If the building material in question is not damaged or “friable,” then the asbestos fibers will not be able to “aerosolize” or become air-borne particulate. The asbestos will be encapsulated in the building material and will not pose a health hazard. For this reason, most old houses do not pose an asbestos-related health hazard to the occupants if you just move in and live there. If the asbestos fibers are not likely to become air-borne, then you are safe.

The biggest risk posed by asbestos in buildings is during a remodel or renovation to an old house. This is when the asbestos-containing materials get damaged and aerosolized and people working or living in the house are at risk of exposure.

Should I Test My Prospective House for Asbestos Before I Buy?

Many buildings built before 1990 will contain asbestos (and potentially high levels of lead). Some of these materials can be determined through a visual inspection, for example: vermiculite insulation, asbestos board/tape, transite siding. Ultimately a qualified person needs to perform a hazardous materials survey and conduct invasive sampling throughout the structure to know with certainty which materials do or do not contain asbestos.

If the seller is aware of asbestos in their home they are required to declare its presence on the Property Disclosure Statement. If a seller knowingly omits that information they can be sued in civil court – if the buyer later finds out that the information was intentionally withheld. Note, many home owners may not be aware of asbestos in their home because in most cases a laboratory analysis is required to determine this. If asbestos was removed from their home there should be a Removal Certificate along with the information about the property.

Is Asbestos Identification Included in a Home Inspection?

Many home inspectors will report on the presence of building materials that are likely to contain asbestos. This should not be confused with a complete asbestos identification inspection, which is much more comprehensive.

Understand that a complete asbestos evaluation often involves destructive testing where samples are drilled, scraped or pried from the building. You would need permission from a home owner if you were doing this prior to purchasing a house and such permission may not be granted. Home inspectors are not allowed to damage the buildings they are inspecting, so there is generally no practical way to inspect for asbestos containing materials in a comprehensive way as a part of a pre-purchase home inspection. This is another reason why asbestos evaluation is often not done as a part of pre-purchase due diligence.

Canada has probably the least restrictions of all the countries in the Industrialized World.  This is most likely due to the fact that Canada was one of the only countries still selling asbestos to Third World Countries.  Canada stopped mining asbestos in 2012, but Prime Minister Trudeau’s Liberal Government has not yet banned the use of asbestos. Science irrefutably has declared chrysotile asbestos a carcinogen, its use is strictly prohibited in 50 countries.