VANCOUVER – WorkSafeBC is educating the public about asbestos risk for pre-1990s homes. The agency is urging homeowners to notify their contractor before starting renovations or a demolition.
Asbestos may not always be easy to spot. It is used in 3,000 common building materials, including vinyl and linoleum flooring, stucco, loose-blown insulation, roof felt shingles, drywall mud, incandescent light fixture backings, and deck under-sheeting.
If the material is allowed to release fibres into the air, they can then be breathed in, leading to devastating long-term health problems, including lung diseases and cancer. The most common way to be exposed to asbestos is careless practices during demolition and renovation of homes and buildings.
WorkSafeBC emphasized that the key steps homeowners can take to protect public health and safety is to identify asbestos-containing materials in the home and have them safely removed prior to renovating or demolishing the home.
“If you’re planning to renovate or demolish a home built before 1990, as a homeowner you need to talk to your contractor about planning for asbestos testing and proper removal,” said Al Johnson, vice-president of prevention services for WorkSafeBC. “Identifying and safely removing asbestos is critical to ensuring the health and safety of everyone working on the project.”
According to WorkSafeBC, asbestos exposure was the contributing factor in 47 work-related deaths in 2018, which adds up to 36 per cent of all work-related deaths in the year.
“Asbestos is the number one killer of workers in B.C. and we need to continue getting the message out to homeowners, contractors and the public about the health risks from asbestos exposure,” added Johnson.
This fall, the agency plans to launch the newest phase of its awareness campaign targeting homeowners which will include radio, television and related advertising regarding the danger asbestos can pose during a demolishing or renovation.
According to Ipsos Public Affairs, WorkSafeBC’s earlier asbestos awareness campaign was recalled by 49 per cent of British Columbians surveyed in May 2019. Of those, 91 per cent said they were likely/very likely to think about asbestos before renovation or demolition work begins on their home.
The current campaign builds on this awareness and shifts the message to encourage homeowners to talk to their contractor about testing and safe removal of asbestos before work begins.