Asbestos has been used for centuries because of its amazing properties. Ancient Romans are rumoured to have used asbestos in tablecloths because they found they could clean the tablecloths by throwing them into fire, since they would come out cleaner than before!

Asbestos was once thought to be a ‘magic mineral’ due to its strength, fire and corrosion resistance, and excellent insulating properties. These properties, combined with the fact that the fibres can be woven into fabric, meant that it was widely used in our building construction for decades (and in many other products as well). In fact, we are still not able to duplicate the usefulness of asbestos in many building materials.

So what changed?  Why have we stopped using asbestos when it is so useful?

We stopped (or are stopping) because the inhalation of asbestos fibres is known to have serious health consequences, especially with prolonged exposure. The difficultly with asbestos exposure is that the symptoms can take 20 to 40 years to present themselves, but have been well documented throughout history.  We now realize that the consequences of asbestos exposure are not worth the benefits of using it.

Asbestos is known to cause:

• Lung cancer

• Asbestosis: scarring of the lung tissue which decreases breathing  capabilities

• Mesothelioma: an aggressive form of cancer, with 60% of people diagnosed dying within a year and is almost exclusively cause by asbestos exposure

Asbestos is also linked to cancer of the larynx, ovaries, colon and gastrointestinal tract.

It’s these health risks that have promoted the material to be banned in over 50 countries, which will soon include Canada, who plans to bring a total asbestos ban into effect by 2018. Many people are just not aware of the extensive use of asbestos in building materials, ranging from pipe insulation to roofing material to floor and ceiling tiles, and that they could be putting themselves at risk if the asbestos is not properly managed.

Did you know? Asbestos exposure causes approximately 1/3 of workplace deaths in Canada, making it the top workplace killer.

What should you do if you suspect asbestos in your home or workplace?

As long as the asbestos is contained and the materials are not damaged, then asbestos fibres shouldn’t be a problem. If the materials (or suspected materials) are damaged, or can be crumbled or powered by hand pressure, do not touch them, or attempt to clean them up – this should be left up to the professionals who have the proper safety gear and equipment. In many cases the removal of asbestos is not the recommended procedure. Instead, proper containment and management might be all that is required.

Worried about asbestos? We can help. Oakhill’s fully certified (MTCU) HAZMAT team has over 20 years of experience in this industry and can help you with every step of the process from asbestos inspections to remediation. We want to provide you with a safe, healthy living environment and treat every project as if the situation was occurring in our own home or workplace.  Give us a call at 905-988-1243 or send an email to to  learn more about what we can do to help you deal with any Asbestos concerns you may have.