WorkSafeBC raising awareness of asbestos dangers in older homes

Asbestos can be found in more than 3,000 common building materials

Contractor and home owner discussing renovation of house.

If you live in an older home and are planning on doing renovations, you need to talk to your contractor about asbestos testing and proper removal. — Photo courtesy WorkSafe BC

WorkSafeBC is raising awareness about the dangers of asbestos in pre-1990s homes and urging homeowners to talk to their contractor before starting renovations or a demolition.

Asbestos can be found in more than 3,000 common building materials, such as: vinyl and linoleum flooring, stucco, loose-blown insulation, roof felt shingles, drywall mud, incandescent light fixture backings, and deck under-sheeting.

Asbestos, if disturbed, can release asbestos fibres into the air. These airborne asbestos fibres can then be breathed in, leading to serious health problems, including lung diseases and cancer. The most common way to be exposed to asbestos is by unsafe practices during demolition and renovation of homes and buildings.

For homeowners, the key steps to protecting everyone’s 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.”

Asbestos exposure was the contributing factor in 47 work-related deaths in 2018, or about 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,” said Johnson.

To help inform and educate homeowners on the dangers of asbestos, WorkSafeBC is launching the next phase of its asbestos awareness campaign this fall, which includes radio, television and related advertising. The campaign continues to support WorkSafeBC’s prevention efforts in keeping everyone safe during residential demolition and 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.

Information and resources for homeowners are available online at: thinkasbestos.com.

About WorkSafeBC

WorkSafeBC engages workers and employers to prevent injury, disease, and disability in B.C. When work-related injuries or diseases occur, WorkSafeBC provides compensation and support to people in their recovery, rehabilitation, and safe return to work. We serve approximately 2.4 million workers and 245,000 employers across B.C.

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