For many years, asbestos has been used in various forms in the construction of various buildings. The aging and alteration of these buildings, as well as the development work that can be carried out there, are likely to release asbestos into the air, which represents a potential danger to residents. An analysis of materials by asbestos decontamination experts is then required for this type of construction site, and our team in Montreal, Canada offers all its expertise in this regard.

Asbestos and its various forms

The term asbestos refers to 6 different types of minerals that come in the form of fibers. They differ in particular in their size and chemical composition. Amosite, tremolite, chrysotile, actinolite, crocidolite and anthophyllite are distinguished. It is a natural material that has been used for its good properties in thermal and phonic insulation,as well as its fire retardant properties. From a health point of view, the thinnest fibres of asbestos are the most harmful: they can be up to 2000 times thinner than a hair,making them undetectable in the air with the naked eye.

What health hazards

The physical and chemical characteristics of asbestos make it particularly resistant and persistent in the body. The fact that asbestos particles tend to split into microparticles can facilitate its migration, especially in the pulmonary alveoli, and cause significant damage. In particular, asbestos can cause the destruction of lung tissue, and cause all kinds of symptoms called asbestosis. Long enough exposure to asbestos is sufficiently prolonged or regular to cause health problems. The dangerousness of asbestos is now clearly established and all forms of asbestos are classified as carcinogenic.

Materials that may contain asbestos remain safe for humans as long as their integrity is preserved. However, the slightest damage or the most insignificant alteration (holes, cracks, scratches…) is enough to cause the release of asbestos in the air. Asbestos decontamination is necessary.

Materials that may contain asbestos

A wide variety of asbestos-containing materials have been used in the construction industry, as well as in the manufacture of many manufactured products for decades. With respect to building materials, these different examples can be identified as likely to contain certain asbestos fibres:

  • Crumbly building materials such as hanging ceilings, stuccos, plaster and cement. As a result, these materials can be quickly reduced to powder or tiny fragments, making it easier to release asbestos into the air.
  • However, non-crumbly building materials are also affected, such as silicone seals, floor tiles, coatings of various types that are made of PVC, or roofing shingles.
  • The thermal insulators used in construction, and electrical insulators.
  • Clothes used for fire protection or because of their good thermal insulation.
  • Some elements that are used to strengthen plastic products such as thermoplastic resins can also be made in part with asbestos.

Case of vermiculite used to insulate attics

Vermiculite is a grey or golden brown material that resembles a small accordion. It consists mainly of mica, but is sometimes found in this thermal insulation of asbestos. Mica mines are sometimes contaminated with asbestos fibres.