Why it’s important to check for asbestos before starting home renovations

Homeowners planning renos need to find out if their homes have asbestos, which, if not handled safely, can be deadly. 

Photo of asbestos-containing thermal pipe insulation labelled by an inspector

Photo credit: iStock.com/Darren Townsend

Raeleen Minchuk Prokopetz was less than a year old when she was exposed to asbestos during a home renovation. It happened “back in the late ’70s when there was no concern for asbestos,” she said, quoted in this CBC story: Woman diagnosed with asbestos-related cancer warning people about renovating homes.

Thirty-five years later, Raeleen was diagnosed with stage 4 mesothelioma. This is a cancer linked with asbestos exposure. Today Raeleen is sharing her experience in support of a WorkSafe Saskatchewan campaign to raise awareness about asbestos in homes built before 1990. (Be sure to watch the video on the campaign page — it’s powerful.)

Is there asbestos in your home?

Here in B.C., WorkSafeBC is also raising awareness among homeowners about asbestos and its dangers. They say it’s hard to know if your home contains asbestos, but to assume it does if it was built before 1990. Asbestos, once prized for its fireproof properties, can be found in more than 3,000 building materials such as:

  • Vinyl and linoleum flooring
  • Stucco
  • Insulation
  • Roof felt shingles
  • Gypsum board filling compound
  • Incandescent light fixture backings
  • Deck under-sheeting

For more about potential sources of asbestos in your home, explore this interactive house from WorkSafeBC.

Ensuring asbestos is removed safely

Before starting any renovation work, homeowners need a qualified person to perform an asbestos survey. If there is asbestos, then a qualified person must conduct a risk assessment. Following that, a qualified asbestos abatement contractor is needed to safely remove and dispose of asbestos.

Learn more about safely testing for and removing asbestos in Ten Simple Steps to Complying with Asbestos Abatement and Asbestos: Frequently Asked Questions (For Homeowners) from WorkSafeBC.

How to find more information about asbestos safety

Visit WorkSafeBC’s Asbestos awareness for homeowners page for more resources and information on asbestos and what to do before starting a home reno or demolition.

The Hazardous Materials Association of B.C. is a non-profit association dedicated to keeping construction workers, homeowners, and the public safe from exposure to hazardous building materials materials, including asbestos.

Keeping Workers, the Public and the Environment Safe from Asbestos is a report from a B.C. government working group that outlines concerns and recommended actions related to the asbestos abatement and disposal process in B.C.

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