Is there asbestos in your home or workplace?
That’s the question the Saskatchewan government is hoping every citizen will be able to answer by the end of the week, which has been designated Asbestos Awareness Week throughout the province.
Asbestos is the generic name for several naturally-occurring minerals which were widely used in construction between the 1950s and 1990s before the associated health concerns were fully known. The fibrous minerals are largely harmless when contained within another structure, but when they are disturbed the fibres can become airborne and, when inhaled, cause serious illness or death.
Jennifer May, vice-president of health promotion at the Lung Association of Saskatchewan, said asbestos can cause several forms of cancer when people are exposed to airborne fibres.
“We know that all forms of asbestos are carcinogenic, so there’s no safe level of exposure,” May told paNOW. “If asbestos is inhaled it can lead to lung cancer, asbestosis or mesothelioma.”
If your building contains asbestos, May said, there is no need to panic – it is simply important to be aware of any potential dangers if the material is ever disturbed.
“If you’re just working in it, and those fibres aren’t being disturbed, you’re fine,” May said. “People just need to understand that when that material gets disturbed, that’s when there’s cause for concern.”
For homeowners, May said the most important things to remember are not to attempt to remove asbestos and to ensure any renovations are completed by trained experts.
Megan Hunt, director of health standards with Saskatchewan Occupational Health and Safety, said Saskatchewan was the first province to create a registry of publicly-owned buildings containing asbestos, which residents can search using a digital map.
“The ministry is very proud to have the first registry of its kind in Canada,” Hunt said. “It’s easy to use, it’s searchable and I think it provides some really good information.”
The registry information lets individuals inform themselves of potential asbestos hazards, Hunt said, and is also useful for contractors, tradespeople and first-responders, as they can quickly determine whether damage to a building has potentially released asbestos fibres.
On Twitter: @TMacPhersonNews
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