Frequently Asked Questions
Asbestos is a naturally occurring, fibrous mineral found in rock formations. Because its fibres are strong, durable and non-combustible, asbestos was widely used in construction and friction materials until the late 1970s, when the negative health effects of asbestos exposure were documented. Some manufactured products are still in use today.
Asbestos poses health risks when fibres are present in the air that people breathe or when the fibres are ingested. There is no direct risk to physical contact with your hands or skin, though once loose on your skin, asbestos is likely to be inhaled or ingested as well. When inhaled or ingested, asbestos fibres can cause several serious health problems:
- Asbestosis (a scarring of the lungs which makes breathing difficult)
- Mesothelioma (a rare cancer of the lining of the chest or abdominal cavity)
- Lung Cancer
Yes, at ACM Environmental our certified laboratory technicians analyze more than 5,000 samples each year at our independent lab testing facility. All ACM analysts are all trained at the world renowned McCrone Research Institute and proficiency tested by the Canadian Association of Laboratory Accreditation (CALA). Our laboratory is WorkSafeBC compliant and tests asbestos as per BC regulation which defines asbestos containing material (ACM) as containing 0.5% or more asbestos. An exception is made for vermiculite-containing insulation materials, which are considered asbestos containing if ANY asbestos (even if <0.5%) is found.
Either! You can bring in samples to our laboratory for testing or we can have one of ACM Environmental’s trained technologists come to your site and collect the sample, submit to ACM laboratory and provide you with a report based on the turn-around time you request.
Please note: WorkSafeBC recommends you hire a qualified and experienced professional to collect samples from your property. If you decide to collect the sample yourself, Health Canada and the US EPA advises using a NIOSH approved P100 respirator effective against asbestos during sample collection. You may purchase one from most hardware stores or safety supply stores. Please refer to our sample instructions.
If you are a commercial building owner or management company and are planning on a renovation or demo, WorkSafeBC requires a qualified and experienced person to collect and submit the samples and provide a risk assessment to be compliant within BC.
If you are doing a home renovation and doing the work yourself (not hiring any company to do work on the renovation) then you are not required by Work-Safe BC to provide a Risk Assessment. However, to ensure the health and safety of your family and home, we highly advise getting a Pre-Renovation Hazardous Materials Survey completed by a qualified and experienced person before the renovation. If you will be hiring any contractors or companies to provide services then you are required to have a qualified and experienced person to collect and submit the samples and provide a risk assessment to be compliant within BC.
The possible exposure when taking a sample of dry-wall taping compounds or other non-friable material is rather small, however, please refer to our sample instructions on how to test for asbestos to ensure the safety of yourself and those around you. Within the instructions it details how to wet down area to prevent the asbestos fibres from becoming airborne.
Health Canada and the US EPA advises using a NIOSH approved P100 respirator effective against asbestos during sample collection. You may purchase one from most hardware stores or safety supply stores.
Most vermiculate that was mined in North America does contain asbestos. However to be sure this product needs to be tested. BC regulation which defines asbestos containing material (ACM) as containing 0.5% or more asbestos. An exception is made for vermiculite-containing insulation materials, which are considered asbestos containing if ANY asbestos (even if <0.5%) is found.
For most materials is does not matter the exact location of where they come from as long as they’re at least 2 by 2 inches. With drywall samples specifically, they need to be taken from a corner or a seam in the wall so as to have some of the drywall taping compound (commonly referred to as the mudding) on the sample. If you are submitting a vermiculite sample for testing we need 2-3 cups worth of the material, best taken from multiple locations in a Ziploc container. Please refer to our sampling instructions on how to take proper samples.
If the results are negative you will present our report with the negative result to the place of disposal or give the report to the disposal company.
To dispose of blown-in insulation or ceiling tiles at the Transfer Station or Landfill as garbage, present the certificate of analysis at the Weigh scales. The ACM Environmental’s certificate of analysis will have all the required parameters. Please note; to comply with the waste disposal facility requirements, the certificate must have been supplied within the past 30 days. The certificate will indicate the following:
- _ Contact information * Sample ID & description
- _ Analyst name * Date of analysis
- _ Client name * Analytical method
- _ Property address * No asbestos detected
Non-Asbestos Containing Drywall is only accepted at New West Gypsum or IMR Drywall Recycling. For a listing of companies that can provide recycling services (no asbestos detected) or asbestos abatement/disposal services, call 604-RECYCLE (732.9253) or visit www.metrovancouverrecycles.org. Search for ‘Gypsum / Drywall’ or ‘Asbestos Drywall’, respectively.
If the results are positive, then you will have to contact a company that is certified to deal with asbestos. You can most of the qualified contractors who are trained to deal with asbestos at http://hazmatbc.ca/membercontractors/ . For a listing of companies that can provide recycling services (no asbestos detected) or asbestos abatement/disposal services, call 604-RECYCLE (732.9253) or visit http://www.metrovancouverrecycles.org/MaterialSearch.
Asbestos Containing Drywall
Drywall containing asbestos is accepted for a fee, and only at the following locations. Please contact the facility for bagging and transportation or pick up instructions.
- Clean Harbors Canada, Delta
- Newalta Corporation, Delta
- Safety Kleen, Delta
- Sumas Environmental, Burnaby
- Tri-Arrow Industrial Recovery, Surrey
Asbestos Containing Materials Excluding Drywall: City of Vancouver Asbestos Policy.
Do not disturb the area by doing any renovation or demolition until all asbestos is removed. Asbestos is not harmful if the building materials are intact and in good shape. If you are planning a renovation or demolition, please contact a qualified abatement contractor. Most of the qualified asbestos abatement contractors can be found on HazMatBC website at http://hazmatbc.ca/membercontractors/
Molds (Moulds) are various types of fungi that grow in multicellular filaments and reproduce by forming spores. Mold may grow indoors or outdoors and thrives in damp, warm, and humid environments. Mold can be found in essentially any environment or season.
Potentially to certain levels depending on the type and quantity. See types below:
- Allergenic: is a type of antigen that produces an abnormally vigorous immune response in which the immune system fights off a perceived threat that would otherwise be harmless to the body. Such reactions are called allergies.
- Pathogenic fungi are fungi that cause disease in humans or other organisms.
- Toxigenic producing or elaborating toxins (specifically mycotoxins). Stachybotrys commonly referred to as black mold and is an examples of this type of mold. This type of mold poses the greatest risk to health.
- Stuffy nose
- Irritated eyes
- Wheezing or Cough
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Skin reactions
- Chronic Headaches
- Nose bleeds
- Flu-like symptons
Stachybotrys is a species of mold that produces toxins (specifically mycotoxins). It is sometimes referred to as toxic black mold. This type of mold possesses the greatest risk to human health. It is a greenish-black and is less common than the other types of mold found in homes. Stachybotrys grows on household surfaces that have high cellulose content, such as wood, fiberboard, gypsum board, paper, dust, lint, and other such materials. Please note, not all black mold is Stachybotrys. Confirmation requires mold sampling and analysis.
Airborne mold testing will give you the mold types and concentration quantities in the air. This information can be used to determine health risks to occupants and as an indication of potential hidden mold behind walls, under carpets, within ventilations systems or other areas if no mold is visible. During the testing, ACM Environmental will also test the outdoor air to compare with the indoor levels to determine if amplification exists.
Our trained IAQ technologist will inspect your site for visible mold and building deficiencies (if any), perform moisture testing to determine if excess moisture is in the any of the building products, test the air for mold, and provide a detailed report on the findings. If visible mold is found, our IAQ Technologist can collect a sample for analysis to determine the type(s) and appropriate action to take.
The best way to stop mold from invading your home is to control humidity levels, moisture, and the ingress of water. Mold lives outdoors as well so it is important to prevent it from amplifying in your residence or place of work. The following preventative measures will significantly reduce the potential of mold increasing in your residence or place of work above acceptable levels:
- Conduct periodic inspections to make sure your soffits and roof vents are not clogged.
- Ensure any water damage or leaks in the structure are repaired and any water inside is cleaned up. Remove any wet carpeting.
- Leave bathroom vents on for 15 minutes after having a shower.
- Do not dry laundry in the house unless the room has special ventilation.
- Make sure high humidity rooms do not have any furniture right up against the wall.
- Use air conditioners or dehumidifiers during high humid weather conditions.
- Clean up any dark spots in shower and bath tiles as well as any window frames before it builds up.
- Call a professional Indoor Air Quality Technician if you start noticing discoloration and/or spots on walls and/or ceilings.
Lead in your home can cause serious long-term health and behavior problems for children, and in higher concentrations to adults as well. Lead is especially hazardous to children under 6 years of age. Children are vulnerable to lead in paint chips, in dust and in soil. It gets into their bodies when they put their fingers, toys or paint chips in their mouths. Lead can also harm a pregnant woman and her developing fetus if she is exposed to it.
Home built before 1978 can have very high lead content (over 5000mg/kg) and up to 5000mg/kg up to 1991, or if your house is near a freeway or busy roadway where leaded gasoline and its exhaust may have polluted the soil with lead. Canadian regulations did not apply to exterior paints until the late 90s. It is especially important to test for lead if:
- Your house has peeling or chipping paint;
- You plan to repaint, remodel or renovate the house;
- Your house was built before 1991 (interior), 2000 (exterior). Such homes almost always have higher levels of lead in the paint;
- Your house was built before 2000, has peeling paint, and has bare soil in the yard where children play.
About 50% of the daily lead intake of two-year old urban children comes from house dust through normal hand-to-mouth behaviour. Lead can build up in house dust through normal wear and tear of both indoor and outdoor painted surfaces.
Some good places to test are:
PAINT from window frames, sills, doors, door jambs, baseboards, kitchen cabinets, exterior trim and siding. Also, painted children’s furniture.
When testing BARE SOIL take the samples from around the foundation of house, under windows or walls where the paint is chipping or peeling and where children may play.
If you are going to be impacting any potential lead paint surfaces at the workplace or at home, you need to sample the paint for lead. We will need a sample containing only the paint chips themselves (2 to 4 square inches) with little to no base material (drywall, wood, etc.). If you need lead testing for disposal then you will need to submit a sample of the paint still attached to the base material and weighing over 100 grams total. This will be submitted as a TCLP (lead leachability) test.
Taking a Paint Sample: Tape a clean plastic sandwich bag underneath some paint you want to test. Use a clean, sharp chisel or scraper to scrape a tablespoon-size amount of paint into the bag. Try to scrape off all the layers of paint, not just the top coats - lead is often in the bottom layers of paint. Try not to scrape off any of the wood or plaster that is under the paint. Seal the bag and label it. On the label, write where the sample was taken (example: “Sample #1 - kitchen window sill”). Wash your hands and the scraper with soap and water after each sample you take. One of our Techs can also come and collect the samples for you.
Taking a Soil Sample: Using a clean trowel or large spoon, scoop about half a cup of soil from the top inch of the bare soil you want to test. Try not to scoop up plant leaves, roots, or other large pieces of debris. If there are paint chips in the soil, it is OK to include them in the sample. Seal the bag and label it with the location where the sample was taken. Wash your hands and the spoon with soap and water after each sample you take. One of our Techs can also come and collect the samples for you.
Contact ACM Environmental to determine a safe course of action for your workplace or home to deal with the contamination. You can also contact your family doctor and ask for blood lead tests for you and your children if you feel you have had exposures.
Lead Exposure Symptoms:
- Developmental delays and learning disabilities
- Weight loss
- Abdominal pain
- Mood disorders and memory loss
- Increased chances of miscarriage and premature birth
If you are going to use contractors for any part of the renovation, you will classified as a general contractor according to Worksafe BC and will have to get a qualified person to sample the materials and provide a Risk Assessment based on the scope of work to ensure it is done safely following WorkSafeBC requirements. ACM Environmental provides qualified personnel to conduct the sampling and provide the Risk Assessment to ensure a safe project.
As a homeowner, if you are going to do the work yourself, ACM can provide work procedures to ensure control of the project maintaining safety for your family.
At ACM Environmental, our highly trained laboratory technicians provide a range of sampling options to ensure the safety of children, and adults, in areas that may have been contaminated by high lead concentrations. We have collected bulk samples from a variety of substances and we are able to provide dust wipe, and airborne testing to ensure the safe lead levels in:
- Paint chips
- Airborne particles
- Potable water
- Waste water
Contact us for more about lead sample analysis, lead removal, and safety information.