Can There Be Asbestos in Your Attic?
Almost everyone has and will be exposed to some form of asbestos, but it is those who are exposed to it on a regular basis, either from a working environment or living in a home with asbestos containing materials (ACMs), that are at risk for disease.
Asbestos has been classified as a known human carcinogen by at least three different world agencies, including the International Agency for Research on Cancer, so it is wise to determine if you may be at risk. This is one of the common questions we are asked as experts in asbestos removal in Red Deer.
Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring minerals made up of thin, needle-like fibers. These fibers have most often been used in building insulation, floor and ceiling tiles, car and truck brake pads as well as industrial furnaces and heating systems. Despite their many uses, the Canadian government recognizes that inhaling asbestos particles can cause cancer and other diseases, so it is important to be aware of potential asbestos-contaminated materials in your home. If you have a particular brand of insulation in your home, you may have asbestos in your attic.
How do I Know if There is Asbestos in My Attic?
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Zonolite Attic Insulation was widely popular in both the United States and Canada, so much so that the government of Canada offered a grant to anyone that would use Zonolite in their homes. Unfortunately, one of the materials in this product was found to be contaminated with asbestos, it’s called Vermiculite and looks like this….
Vermiculite, when expanded, is a light-weight, fire-resistant and odorless material great for many types of products. The Vermiculite that Zonolite Attic Insulation used was taken from a mine in Libby, Montana, but the fact that it was contaminated wasn’t discovered until after 70% of all the Vermiculite in the US was mined from Libby, so a majority of homes built during that time were contaminated, including homes in Canada. Zonolite was estimated to still be in about 300,000 homes across the Canada in 2008.
If the insulation in your home looks like the pictures above, it is most likely Vermiculite insulation and highly likely it is contaminated.
How Do I Keep My Family Safe From Asbestos-Contaminated Insulation in My Attic?
Asbestos must be airborne for it to be dangerous, so the best thing you can do is to not disturb the insulation in any way. The more you handle it or jostle it through construction or other means, the more particles that are released into the air and the more likely you are to inhale it.
Exposure to asbestos increases your risk of developing lung diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer, or mesothelioma. If you have Vermiculite insulation in your attic, do not store boxes there, let children play in the area, or try to remove the insulation yourself.
If you plan to conduct renovations on your attic or have any insulation removed, it is best to hire a professional asbestos contractor.
For more information on asbestos and relevant health and safety regulations, visit https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/chemical-substances/chemicals-management-plan/initiatives/asbestos.html