Canada: This Old (Asbestos-Filled) House

Last Updated: January 27 2017
Article by Paul Miller

It seems that everything old is new again on television. This is both literally and figuratively true for a popular genre of home improvement and home renovations shows.

Beginning with the landmark 1970s PBS series "This Old House," all sorts of spin-offs, imitators and remakes have come in its wake. Television audiences apparently can't get enough of programs that chronicle do-it-yourself success stories and (more often) disasters and they are flipping out over home flipping shows where investors buy outdated or rundown property that they fix up in hopes of making a tidy profit.

The popularity of these shows combined with rising real estate prices have led to a surge in renovations, remodelling and building additions in recent years. But while they may inspire you to get your hands dirty as you tear up tiles and tear down walls, be aware of the hazards that you may encounter as you work on your home.

Asbestos: The Hidden Killer

While that shag carpet in your rec room may make your stomach turn, what you can't easily see in your home is more likely to make you sick. Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring fibrous minerals that was often used in a variety of building materials during much of the 20th century. If you live or work in building constructed before 1990, chances are you spend every day surrounded by at least some asbestos products.

It's durability, flexibility and resistance to fire, heat and chemicals made it a favoured source of insulation, but it is also often found in decades-old house siding and roof shingles, cement and plaster, floor and ceiling tiles, heating systems, and as pipe protectors, in addition to other industrial uses.

Left undisturbed, asbestos products aren't an immediate danger. However, as they break down over time or as fibres invisible to the naked eye become airborne during demolition and construction they can be a serious health hazard. When inhaled, these carcinogenic fibres can become caught in lung tissue and trapped indefinitely. This can result in lung abnormalities such as pleura, scarring causing asbestosis, and a variety of cancers of the lung and gastrointestinal tract including, most seriously, mesothelioma.

While these invisible fibre particles can do immense damage to your lungs and immune system, the larger products containing asbestos cannot always be identified reliably by sight. Although spotting old popcorn ceiling plasters or fibrous wall and attic insulations might set off alarm bells, seeing other asbestos-containing products like dry wall tape and heating ductwork may prompt the same caution.

What is The Risk?

If you've undertaken some home renovations involving these types of products, your mind might be racing and your palms might be sweating as you think back to the last time you had a coughing fit. Fortunately, the risk of developing serious diseases from short-term asbestos exposure, even if in moderate amounts, is fairly low. Moreover, most asbestos-related illnesses will only develop years or often decades later.

However, minimizing or avoiding exposure is still advisable. If you plan on doing construction in or around your home, or being present while others do the work, always ensure you have the appropriate permits and complete appropriate safety inspections. Hazardous material testing professionals should be called in to do an assessment and spot checks on at-risk materials. If asbestos is found, companies specializing in remediation should be sought out as it's never advisable to attempt to remove asbestos without the proper training and equipment.

If you do believe you had experienced short-term asbestos exposure, notify your doctor so (s)he is aware when conducting future physical examinations or medical tests. Activities like smoking, which greatly increase the risk of developing asbestos-related disease, should be avoided, but otherwise, over-worrying about your potential to develop these diseases will likely cause more health issues than the effects of one or two incidents on their own.

Long-Term Exposure to Asbestos

The risk of asbestos increases substantially with long-term or repeated exposures to the substance. People who worked or are still working in the construction and home renovation industries are among the groups more at risk of developing an asbestos-related disease because their line of work may have brought them in contact with asbestos fibres much more frequently. Additionally, working without the proper protective masks, clothing and other decontaminants, they could have faced significant exposures. People who live in close proximity to these workers, such as their family members, are also at risk of secondary exposure to asbestos which can increase the likelihood of developing these diseases.

In future blog posts, I will examine these risks of long-term exposure and what types of compensation and legal options are available for people whose lives have been affected.

Safety First

Trying your hand at home remodelling and renovations can be a lot of fun, but remember that there is a serious side as well. Always ensure you identify potential hazards and risks to undertaking a project. If you are doing work and believe you may have disturbed asbestos:

  • Stop working at the site immediately
  • Put on P3 level respiratory protective equipment if it's available
  • If available, use a water-filled spray bottle to dampen the site and thereby prevent the fibres from becoming or staying airborne
  • Minimize spreading the fibres by wiping yourself down with a damp rag and disposing of the rag and the clothes you are wearing (or seal them in a bag and bring them to a specialist cleaner)
  • Seal the space by closing doors and windows and turning off forced air heating and cooling systems if possible. Mark the site as potentially contaminated and hazardous.
  • Shower and wash your hair
  • Contact a hazardous material testing company for additional instructions

When in doubt, always contact a professional to do testing of building materials in advance of a project or hire a trained crew to do demolition and material removal. When it comes to working on your old, and potentially asbestos-filled house, it's always better to be safe than sorry.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions