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"My Neighbour doesn’t have asbestos, so I’m Fine."

Why Proper Testing is Important

By Jud Menshal | Jul 28 2021 | Asbestos Removal

How do I know if I have asbestos?

A clump of asbestos fibres with a black background

The only way to truly know is to test for it. It is not visible to the human eye. This article is all about asbestos testing, its rules and its quirks. We talk about where you could find it and how to be safe while saving money.

Ok, so here are some lines we hear on a regular basis:

  • I checked with my neighbours and they don't have any asbestos, so we're good
  • My agreement of purchase and sale for the house says there isn't any asbestos
  • My Home-Inspection doesn't mention Asbestos
  • I tested the second floor and it came back negative, so I'm good
  • My house was built after 1986, so there's no asbestos in my home
  • As long as you wear a mask, I don't care, just go ahead.

These are common things we hear and are pretty logical at face-value. But once you dig into it a little more, you start to see how these things do not leave you with a definitive answer to the ultimate question: “Is there asbestos in this particular construction material?”

We’ll go through each item and talk about in in a conversational tone.

1. I checked with my neighbours and they don’t have any asbestos, so we’re good.

Picture of 2 neighbours talking to each other over a white picket fence

Ok... Maybe this image is a little extreme.

There are so many things that can be said about this, but we'll try to keep this one brief. Here are some questions that can be asked to eliminate this as a valid reason for not having asbestos.

  • Was the home built by the same builder?
  • Was the home built after 1990?
  • Did the builder use the same batch of materials in your home as your neighbour's home or did he start a new batch?
  • Did the builder use the same batch of materials throughout the entire neighbour's home, or did he have to start a new batch, and how do you know?
  • Did the builder use the same batch of materials throughout your entire home, and how do you know?

2. My agreement of purchase and sale for the house says there isn’t any asbestos.

So what the clause actually says is "to the best of seller's knowledge…" Now there is no mandatory testing required before someone sells a home, and all asbestos testing is confidential, so even if the seller did know, he/she could conceal this fact from you. Chances are they don't even know about the asbestos, however.

3. My Home-Inspection Doesn't mention Asbestos

No, your home inspection does not include asbestos testing. Asbestos testing is an intrusive testing that requires altering (digging and cutting) the surface which requires testing. Your home inspection was done whilst the property was under someone else's name. To cut, break or abrade someone else's property is against the law.

Now, your inspector may be able to comment as to specific items that are found to have asbestos 99% of the time, such as fire and heat-retarding paper around ducts and vents. These statements are usually correct as these carried asbestos for their fire retarding properties.

4. I tested the second floor and it came back negative, so I’m good.

This is an image of a woman in hazmat gear, testing drywall for asbestos in a home where you can see the framing and drywall torn off

Unfortunately, batches of materials are started in one home and finished in another/ Materials aren't packaged to be just enough for a certain home or floor. You buy what you need, a little extra for waste and then you have left-overs. Now if you're building 100 homes, you're buying lots of materials from several batches and there is no record of what was used where; which asbestos containing batch started and ended where. What does this mean? We'll elaborate with an example. We were in a home that was getting re-wired. The house had 37 tests done. All came back negative except the ones from the foyer. The entire 2200 square foot home came back negative except for this one 5 x 5 area. How can this be? Well there are 2 scenarios; one more plausible than the other. Scenario 1, the entire house was gutted and they removed all the plaster (maybe the lathe too) from the home and neglected to do the front entrance. Or, scenario 2, the builder ended an asbestos containing batch of materials in the home and started a non-asbestos containing batch in this same home. This could be the reverse order, depending on whether or not they plastered this front entrance first or last.

5. My house was built after 1986, so there’s no asbestos in my home.

While this would be ideal and you are right about the legislation, business must go on. Let's jump in.
Builders and facilities were permitted the use of asbestos containing materials (ACM) up until 11:59PM, Dec 31 1985. After that, it wasn't allowed…. Legally.
Here's the problem with this. Builders, both big and small, buy batches of materials, in big and sometimes, massive, quantities, depending on how many homes they're building. So what were these builders supposed to do with all this inventory, trash it and potentially go under, leaving thousands of trades workers jobless? Well, of course not. The government had to be lenient and allow a phasing out of these materials, whether written or not, the government let this slide for years. The last recorded case of ACM in a residential home was drywall compound in a home built in 1990. YES, 1990!

If this were the exterior of your home, fine, that's one thing. But if this is in your home, your HVAC would recirculate the asbestos fibers for years to come and you'd be well on your way to developing a lung condition. This is why following the government procedures is in your best interests. Truly.

6. Just wear a mask, I don’t care, do the work.

Unfortunately, this isn't how tort law works. A business or person must do what is in their power to do in order to make sure they're not harming others. Failing to do so is negligence, especially if you're consciously committing or failing to commit an act that might prevent harm.

Persons or companies not following government regulations and unnecessarily exposing their customers to asbestos face $50,000 for a first offence and $100,000 for a second offence as well as 2 years in prison.

So if you're a contractor worried about losing a job because of the potential of asbestos in your client's home, you now understand the risks of not saying anything and not getting it tested. As if the risk of endangering someone's life wasn't big enough. ;)

While not as clear, there are also major penalties for homeowners failing to let a contractor know that there is asbestos on site.

This is why PatchBoyz will sometimes require a test before performing Ottawa stipple removal or other work on your home.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us. PatchBoyz loves Geeking out on this stuff.

Article By

Jud Menshal | 📚

Jud is a 14 year Asbestos Removal Type 3 & Supervisor certified remediation technician with additional experience and certifications in Mold, Lead and Finishing. He holds all mandatory safety credentials important for running a safe project site.

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