Asbestos and Lead – What Do Homeowners Need to Be Aware Of?

Exploring the frequently asked questions about Asbestos and Lead contamination in your home – where might it be, what to do…

Mark: Hi, it’s Mark Bossert, Top Local Lead Generation. We’re talking with Jason Knox from BC Preferred Restoration and we’re talking about a very concerning subject today, asbestos and lead and lead, asbestos and lead. How are you doing today Jason?

Jason: Hey, I’m doing pretty good thanks Mark.

Mark: So what do homeowners need to be aware of with asbestos and lead?

Jason: Definitely, these are hazards that you know, they’ve been in our homes with us, these materials were used in building you know, throughout the years basically you know, the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s even into the 2000’s with the lead paint. These materials are safe to have in your house if they’re lying just dormant, o.k., you don’t need to freak out and go tear your house down because you find out that you have asbestos in the floor tile or something but if you do have to disturb these materials you know, and they are present being lead or asbestos, certain precautions need to be taken you know, to ensure the safety of the people doing the work and also you know, the safety of you the homeowner and your family living in the house while the works going on.

Mark: So I guess you know, we see it on the renovation shows, they run into you know friable asbestos or whatever and I imagine the same thing happens if there’s a flood or any kind of work where you guys are involved; is that when you have to tear stuff out and you discover asbestos then the abatement procedures come into play, is that right?

Jason: Yeah, you’re absolutely right, that’s right, exactly what you said, you have a flood so we have to go in, we have to maybe tear down some drywall or tear out your flooring you know, to do a proper cleaning and drying in those areas let’s say. Before we do that we want to make sure that we’re not putting anybody’s health at risk and therefore we test for these materials again so it’s not to make these, in the case of asbestos make the fibres airborne so that nobody’s breathing them, right and this is when it becomes you know a great danger; this is when you’re like I say tearing these materials up.

Mark: So, what, what do homeowners do if lead or asbestos, or what do you do if you find asbestos and or lead present in materials that you’re tearing apart?

Jason: Yeah, so basically how it starts is we start by taking a small sample of the materials that we have to tear out, we take it to a lab that we work with and the lab basically analyze these samples and then you know, within a day comes back to us with the answer as to whether or not there’s asbestos or lead in these materials. If there is you know, it doesn’t change the scope of work that needs to be done, it changes the precautions that need to be taken when doing the removal of these materials and actually in this case what we do is we hire an asbestos or a lead abatement company to come in and do the removal of these items. They’re going to set up the proper containment and use the proper equipment to create negative air situations is what they call it, so basically everything they do is to protect the people there in the house while the works going on so as to not expose them to these materials.

Mark: So, where can you find lead and asbestos?

Jason: So a lot of different places within the house that’s potentially you would find these materials. The lead is basically in paint, the lead based paint, wall paint, floor paint, some of the old cabinetry, a lot of the shiny finish paint if you look throughout your house, there’s a chance that this contains lead, ok. With asbestos again many places throughout the house but some of the most common places where you’re going to find the asbestos especially during a renovation or a restoration project would be the drywall joint compound or the mud that is used to basically finish the drywall, the vinyl composite tiles or the vinyl sheet flooring quite often contains asbestos as well. The mastic or the adhesive that is used to keep these materials to the floor is another area where you’re going to find asbestos. Insulation a form of insulation called vermiculite insulation, it looks like almost like small pebbles, you’ll find it sometimes in older homes and inside the wall area underneath the subfloor for instance; quite often this material will have asbestos in it and it needs to be tested for sure to determine that.

Mark: So I guess even in old, really old pipe insulation and stuff as well.

Jason: Definitely, another good point, someone will duct tape it as well, like you say the insulating wraps on the coatings on the piping for sure, that’s another place that you’ll find it; some ceiling tiles another area where you’re going to find them, find asbestos I should say. But the rule of thumb basically is that if you run up against some material that you’re not sure if it contains asbestos, you take a sample of that material and you run it to the lab and the lab will tell you without fail. There’s no guess work, right? Nobody can look at a material and say this has asbestos or this doesn’t have asbestos, they can look at it and say you know, there’s a high probability that this contains asbestos but until it’s actually analyzed by a trained technician in a lab there’s no way to tell.

Mark: So is the safe removal of lead and asbestos covered by insurance?

Jason: Yup, absolutely it is you know they don’t want to, they don’t want to put anybody’s health at risk either, they being the insurance industry so absolutely, if it needs to be done, it needs to be done and will be paid for by insurance.

Mark: So I guess a couple questions come to mind, so first is lead, does lead get airborne, is that an issue with lead paint or is it just more in the disposal of a really toxic substance.

Jason: Yeah, it’s a lot less, you have a lot less concern about lead becoming airborne so you are right it is a lot in the disposal but also in the safe handling as it can also leach into through skin and this sort of thing so you want to be careful when handling lead based paint as well.

Mark: And is it fair to say that the older your place is probably is the higher the possibility that you’ve got asbestos?

Jason: Yes, absolutely, good question, I mean out here in BC anyways because it’s WorkSafe BC who looks after the safe work practices and kind of governs that, they don’t give you a strict date you know as it is for asbestos testing or when you’re going to stop finding asbestos but they, rather they say if you suspect that the material contains asbestos you need to have it tested and find out for sure. When are you going to suspect that it contains asbestos? The rule of thumb in our industry is that we use 1993 as kind of a cutoff date so anything built 1993 or prior is going to be tested you know, in my experience you’re right though we’re not finding asbestos in homes 1991, 1992, 1993 but most commonly in homes built you know in the 60’s and 70’s, even into the 1980’s.

Mark: The stuff must have been cheap, they’re putting it in everything seems like.

Jason: Cheap and a good materials, strong and it’s fire retardant so I mean it has a lot of good qualities and unfortunately not at the time we didn’t know the health affect that it would have on people, sometimes you just don’t know these things, now that we do know we do better and you cannot use asbestos in building materials here in Canada anymore, that being said like I say, a lot of the homes do contain it and we just need to be aware that it’s out there and test when appropriate.

Mark: Sure, great, this is great stuff and I think it’s a big concern you know, something that we all need to be aware of as we remodel you know, merrily along and as well as you know, if floods happen, if water damage happens that you have to be careful about your, especially in your basement is probably even an older part of your house is a lot of cases and if it’s been remodelled or has been finished in some way you, there’s a really good opportunity that there’s asbestos and lead, lead paint in there we well.

Jason: Yup, you bet, good point and if you do have any questions about you as a homeowner wanting to do a renovation at any time and want to know, what needs to be tested I can always help you out with that as well, come out and identify these areas for you, even take the samples for you and give you the information you’re going to need to be safe out there.

Mark: Awesome, so we’ve been talking with Jason Knox at BC Preferred Restoration, they’re one of the premier flood restorations, water damage restoration companies in Vancouver, greater Vancouver, Coquitlam, Surrey, all over the lower mainland basically. If you have any issues give them a call 604-295-8646. The rains are coming, get prepared 604-295-8646. Thanks a lot Jason.

Jason: Thank you Mark.