Probably everyone has heard about how asbestos causes terrible health problems, including mesothelioma. You may be wondering why it still matters in 2022 when the use of asbestos in building construction was banned in the 1980s. Asbestos is a mineral that occurs in nature whose fibres were found to be very useful in insulation because it is fire retardant. It was also a component in drywall and other materials because it is lightweight, inexpensive, and found to be a good agent to bind other materials together.
Why should there be concern about a product that hasn’t been used for decades?
Well, to begin with, although it is no longer used in Canada and the United States, many other countries still use it in products that are imported into our country, like gaskets and brake shoes. In addition, there are still quite a number of homes and commercial buildings that still have drywall that contains asbestos. Asbestos only becomes hazardous when its dust or fibers are expelled into the air and are ingested or inhaled.
Many of the cases we hear about are actually from 20 or 30 years ago before the dangers were realized. In 2021 it is reported that asbestos exposure was at least a contributing factor in 53 out of 161 workplace deaths.
The good news is that asbestos is not harmful unless the fibers are disturbed. So, even if your drywall has asbestos, things are fine. That is unless you are planning some renovating that will mean tearing out walls. We have all seen those home improvement shows where someone takes a sledge hammer to a wall sending stuff flying everywhere. Well, unless you have had the drywall tested, you may be sending lots of dust and particles right into the air.
British Columbia will be introducing new standards for asbestos abatement contractors. These will include the companies and their workers to be licensed specifically for this task. There will be mandatory safety training and certification. They are the first province in the country to enact these standards. This is an indication of an increased vigilance toward the handling of this product.
As you can tell, concern over asbestos usage and abatement is still a relevant concern even in the 21st century. If you own an older home or manage a commercial building in Calgary that was built prior to 1990, it is possible that asbestos is still in the drywall in the rooms. If you are planning any type of renovation or construction work, especially if it means tearing out walls, you should seek the services of an asbestos removal contractor. They will be able to conduct tests to see if there is a problem with the current wallboard. If there is nothing, you can continue with the knowledge that things are as they should be.
If asbestos is present, you can contract with a qualified asbestos abatement firm for the safe removal and disposal of the drywall.