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Is There Asbestos in Your Siding?

It’s hard to believe now, but at one time asbestos was seen as a kind of “miracle” substance that changed the construction business in North America.

After some experimentation with various materials, asbestos was mixed with cement by the early 20th century. In many ways, it was the ideal construction material – durable, both flame resistant and waterproof, easy to handle and form into a wide variety of useable shapes and formats. The mixtures used ranged from 10-75% cement to asbestos fibres, and were found to be nearly indestructible.

It’s no wonder that siding shingles became one of the very many uses for the asbestos-cement mixture. It was commonly used for industrial buildings, where corrugated sheets replaced corrugated iron. It was more economical and more flexible. Since it was easy to form into any shape, asbestos-cement shingles may feature a variety of finishes, including textured, wood-like and purely decorative applications. These shingles were secured at the bottom, rather then the top as was common with wood or slate shingles, which made them easier to replace.

Asbestos-cement was seen as a versatile, innovative building material in many respects until the early 1970’s and the first bans on asbestos use were initiated in North America. After decades of exposure, asbestos workers had come to present with alarming symptoms, and a link was discovered between inhaled asbestos fibres and a form of lung cancer.

What’s important to remember is that the fibres must be inhaled to become hazardous. Building materials are only considered hazardous if they have deteriorated to the point that they can be crumbled by hand. Asbestos-cement, if intact, is not considered hazardous because the cement fully binds the fibres; therefore they don’t circulate in the air where they can be breathed in.

However any material does deteriorate over time, and chipping, sawing, grinding, sanding – even a large scratch in the surface can release dangerous asbestos fibres into the air. They keys to safe maintenance are:

  • Inspection – keep a close eye on the exterior of your home or wherever the materials include asbestos
  • Maintenance – clear away any debris as quickly as you can, and avoid contact with things like the lawnmower or weedeater and siding

At Environmental Services Group, asbestos surveys and assessments are one of our areas of expertise. If you see any cracks or chips in need of repair or suspect asbestos use in any of the building materials in your home, then call the experts at Environmental Services Group for a quote.

Environmental Services Group is a cutting edge environmental consulting firm based in Toronto and servicing both the Greater Toronto Area and Ontario. We provide state-of-the-art, industry-leading expertise in remedying environmental hazards such as mold, lead, asbestos and much more. Call 416-575-6111 or visit our website today for a pressure-free initial consultation. You’ll be glad you did!

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