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Asbestos in Buildings and Products

Given its usefulness, asbestos was used in a wide array of products, including car and truck brake pads, clutches. However, its use was most widespread in the manufacture of building materials. Asbestos was used in the manufacture of insulation, ceiling and floor tiles, roofing, sound-proofing and many other applications¹.

As of 2017, asbestos is not totally banned in Canada. In 1979 the use of asbestos in manufacturing was banned for most products. But, production, use, sale and import of non-friable asbestos (non-crumbly) still continues. There is a proposal by the federal government to totally ban asbestos by 2018².

In terms of insulation, the installation of asbestos-containing insulation stopped in the early 1990’s. However, many commercial, industrial, government and residential buildings, still contain asbestos (in various forms) today. The Canadian Federal government has published a list of its buildings that are known to have asbestos.

Asbestos Cement Products

The largest use of asbestos, in terms of tonnage, was as a reinforcing agent in cement products. Asbestos cement products are still in production today.

Asbestos cement sheet uses include ceiling tiles, decorative panelling, electrical insulation and laboratory table tops. Asbestos cement sheet has also been used for roofing and siding of buildings.

Asbestos has been found in all forms of ceiling tiles. Unfortunately, you cannot tell whether acoustic ceiling tiles contain asbestos by simply looking at them. Testing the tiles for asbestos will confirm whether asbestos is present.

Asbestos-cement pipe is used for water supply, sewage, irrigation, drainage applications, and electric and telephone conduits.

Asbestos and Plastics

Asbestos has been added to plastic manufacturing processes to strengthen the end products. Asbestos can be found in floor tiles, engine housings, bins and containers, and a variety of coatings, adhesives, caulking, sealants and patching compounds.

Asbestos Insulation on Mechanical Systems

Mechanical insulation is the commonly found friable asbestos product in buildings. It may be present on boilers, tanks, ducts, pipes and process equipment. In the form of asbestos-cement, it was used to strengthen and insulate around piping.

Asbestos and Vermiculite Insulation

Low percentages of asbestos have been found in some vermiculite deposits. However, when loose vermiculite insulation is disturbed, the asbestos fibre can easily become airborne. Testing for asbestos is recommended before disturbing any vermiculite insulation.


Asbestos Infosheets

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Sources:
1. Government of Canada Health risks of asbestos
2. CBC Full asbestos ban, changed codes and regulations expected by 2018
** Other information based on Asbestos Training Manual, Pinchin LeBlanc

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