Demolition, Mold (Mould) and Asbestos Removal Services by Urban Environmental.

Homeowners Can – And Should – Be Proactive in Preventing Flooded Basements

mold and water damage from basement leak
mold and water damage from basement leak

It’s that time of year again in the Lower Mainland, and with this year’s recurring snowfalls that are often followed by rain when the temperatures sneaks back above zero (a very common trend in the Southwest corner of BC) there’s going to be more than a few flooded basements before spring arrives. We understand the concerns. We’re property restoration experts in Vancouver, but most of us are homeowners ourselves.

Naturally, homes in low-lying areas with subterranean basements are going to be most at risk, and we imagine the owners of those types of homes really don’t need to be appraised of this fact. There’s nothing we can do to convince Mother Nature to cease with blankets of snow followed by the deluges of rain, but smart homeowners will be proactive in taking steps to ensure their basement isn’t flooded. Or is flooded much less significantly than if they were to do nothing at all.

Let’s discuss these tips here.

The key word here in all of this, again, is proactive. You should be aiming to prevent or minimize flooding damage before it occurs. Let’s start with what you can do for the exterior of your home.

Exterior Considerations

  • Sealing cracks or openings in walls, floors, windows and foundations, and seal all window wells. If you don’t know how to effectively seal cracks and the right products to do so, learn it or hire a professional to do it for you (recommended of course)
  • Clearing eavestroughs and downspouts of leaves and other debris that prevent proper drainage. This one is doable for anyone, so get on it and complete the job thoroughly and regularly
  • Disconnecting your downspouts from the sewer system – this is also not particularly difficult or time consuming, and can be done right at the beginning of the season
  • Ensuring the grading around your home slopes away from the foundation wall to help drain water away from your home
  • Increasing the green space around your home with native plants and shrubs, and installing porous pavement to help absorb rainwater and melted snow
  • Repairing or replacing damaged weeping tile systems, which can magnify the volume of a flood in big way, particularly if the driveway lies flat or slopes down inwards
  • Ensuring drainage swales (shallow ditches) between properties are maintained and clear of obstructions

Now to the interior of your detached home

Interior Considerations

  • Ensuring plumbing and drainage systems are in good working condition. Keep in mind that homeowners are responsible for the plumbing, from the property line to the inside the home
  • Understanding how your plumbing and foundation drainage systems work, and how to maintain them. Every home is different and homes over time have been built with different building practices and building codes
  • Installing a backwater valve and a properly-sized sump pump and piping. If your home is in a high-risk area, having a sump pump on site and ready to go in event of an emergency is truly a very smart decision
  • Sealing cracks or openings in walls, floors, windows and foundations, and seal all window wells
  • Do not keep valuable possessions in subterranean areas of the home. A simple one, yes, but still worth mentioning.

Most homeowners in BC will have homeowner’s insurance. While it’s nice to know that you’re covered in the event of a flood, it’s still a particularly upsetting experience for most people. Being on top of everything you can do to prevent or minimize flooding is highly recommended, and particularly so these days with the trend towards more and more instances of flooding with our increasingly wild weather.

Here’s to your success with your preventative measures, and be sure to call us first for all your property restoration needs in Vancouver and surrounding areas.

Effectively Identifying and Remediating PCBs in Building Materials

UrbanEnvironmental.caAsbestos continues to be public-enemy #1 when it comes to building material contaminants that property owners want to quickly identify and be thoroughly rid of when it comes to their properties and the air quality within it. That’s perfectly natural given the health risks associated with breathing in asbestos fibres, but there’s another potentially airborne contaminant that was incorporated into building materials in far previous decades that needs some attention paid to it as well.

 PCBs, or Polychlorinated Biphenyls, were found in building materials used between roughly 1950 and 1979 in North America, both in Canada and the USA. As is the case with asbestos, one of the more common locations for them was in schools and other public-utility buildings and offices.

 Potential PCB Trouble Spots

 Here at Urban Environmental, we are equally experienced and adept with testing for and remediating PCBs in building materials. Let’s take a look at where they are most commonly found:

  •  Caulk put in place between 1950 and 1979 may contain as much as 40 percent PCBs and can emit PCBs into the surrounding air. PCBs from caulk may also contaminate adjacent materials such as masonry or wood.
  •  Fluorescent lighting fixtures that still contain their original PCB-containing light ballasts and have exceeded their designated lifespan have an increased chance of rupture and emitting PCB. Sudden rupture of PCB-containing light ballasts may result in exposure to the occupants and may also result in the addition of significant clean-up costs
  •  Some building materials – paint and masonry walls most notably – and indoor dust can absorb PCB emissions and then become potential secondary carry sources for PCBs. When the primary PCB-emitting sources are removed, the secondary sources often emit PCBs.

When it comes to removing contaminated caulk, it is preferable to use and electrical joint cutter with oscillating blade rather than any manual implement. A big reason for this is that the oscillating blade creates a low volume of dust and there is typically a low risk of damage to joint faces when the work is conducted by a skilled and experienced tradesperson.

A rotary cutting tool can be used too, and some remediation technicians will use dry ice blasting, which is also very effective but expensive and comes with complex requirements for protective measures.

 Like any remediation process when contaminants that pose health risks may be present, it must be undertaken by industry professionals. Property owners can be proactive in identify the possibility of it though, and in particular by identify products by their manufacture date or classification.  With fluorescent lighting, look for the following indicators:

  •  A black, tar-like substance inside the small capacitor within the FLB or in the potting material. If an FLB fails or over heats, the capacitor may break open resulting in release of its oils and potting materials
  •  A yellow, oily liquid or in the tar-like potting material that leaks from the FLB

 The capacitor does not always leak when the FLB fails, and a leaking capacitor does always cause FLB failure. A leaking or rupturing FLB may increase PCB levels in the air, therefore, measures should be taken to limit or avoid personal exposure. 

 Airborne contamination stemming from degrading paint and masonry walls is measured by a Toxic Organic Compounds in Ambient Air test, with one of 2 tests determined by a high or low air volume. This approach is usually paired with wipe sampling testing from the suspected source material(s), and between them we are extremely reliable at identifying and then removing all PCBs via the offending building materials.

 Urban Environmental is Greater Vancouver’s premiere home and commercial property remediation service provider, and we’re proud of our nearing 2 decades of meeting and exceeding customer expectations and maintaining an ‘A’ rating with the Better Business Bureau. If you have any reason to suspect airborne contaminants in your home or business property, please call or email us without delay.


Tips and Tricks to Prevent Mold in your home

Mold, it is one of the biggest issues that many homes face on the West Coast, and yet you can avoid this expensive and dangerous issue. We here at Urban Environmental have brought together some of the top tips on how to avoid getting mold, and how to deal with water within the home.

  • Remove those items that may cause mold

This seems simple, but yet many who have mold tend to forget to remove problem items from their home. Take a look in your basement, and make sure to limit the amount of stored materials within it. If you have badly damaged items or ones that reek of must, throw them out. Avoid storing firewood within the home; try the side of the house, or a simple shed to place it in. If you have carpet that is damp, remove it and that goes for bathrooms and basements especially. Finally, do not store things in cardboard boxes on your basement floors; it just simply avoids future issues that may arise.

  • Maintain a dry and clean home

This is a very simple point. If you have a clean and dry surface that gets wet, make sure to take care of it. Whether you need to add drip pans for air conditioners, refrigerators and dehumidifier, or make sure to take care of the walls around your shower or toilet.  Keep your home dry and clean and you will enjoy a mold free house.

  • Limit indoor moisture sources

Moisture loves to get inside the home, and you need to work hard to keep it out of the home. Try to avoid airing your laundry indoors, and make sure to remove dryer lint after each use. Watch for signs of mold on plants, and make sure to take out garbage regularly. Some simple changes and you will enjoy a mold free home for the future.

  • Prevent water from entering the home

Make sure to install downspout extensions throughout the home to take rainwater and melted snow away from your foundation. Ensure that your eaves troughs and roof gutters are connected, and do not leak. A clean gutter that takes water away can make a world of difference for your home, and ensures your home is mold free.

However, if water does come into your home, you will need to take some very important steps in a short amount of time.

  • Disconnect the power

On top of this, you will also need to unplug and remove your portable electronics, and clear the area of furniture and movable items.

  • Remove the water

There are a number of ways to do this, but the most popular are: manual work with towels, buckets and mops, or with machines, whether it be a shop vac or a sump pump.

  • Start to dry the affected area

Fans and dehumidifiers are going to be your best friend in this step, and you will need to work hard to ensure the entire area is truly dry.

  • Disinfect the area

This includes walls, baseboards, floors and every other surface that might have microbes on it. Make sure to work hard and use an industrial or tough disinfectant to ensure it works.

  • Prevent Mold Growth

Follow the aforementioned steps above to ensure you do not have a future mold problem!

If you do happen to have a mold problem, and you need it taken care by professionals, call the team at Urban Environmental for their amazing mold removing service. We have been dealing with mold for years, and know how to best remove and destroy the mold for good.  Call us today, and enjoy a mold free environment for your home or office.

Common Asbestos Myths

UE-AsbestosMyths-bThese days, almost all of us are aware of the dangers asbestos can pose, we realize the importance of having a specialist deal with any job which may involve disturbing or removing asbestos. However, the general public’s awareness has not always been as good, which has led to some peculiar myths about asbestos. Here are some of the most common:

1) New build properties are free from asbestos.

Don’t assume that because your house or office is a new build that you’re not at risk. A 2014 HSE survey showed that only 15% of people knew that asbestos was still used in buildings up until the year 2000.

2) You can remove asbestos from your system if you act quickly.

 An HSE survey showed that 14% of people believe that if they had a drink, after exposure to asbestos dust, they weren’t at risk from asbestosis. Another 27% thought they’d be okay if they opened a window in a room with asbestos dust. This is not true. Anyone handling asbestos must follow strict guidelines to protect themselves, which involves protective clothing, face masks and specialist sealants.

3) Mesothelioma is contagious.

You can’t catch mesothelioma from an afflicted person. However, it is possible to contract it if you share a home with someone who works around asbestos, who unintentionally brings home items which are contaminated with asbestos fibres.

4) If you find asbestos in your home, you must remove it immediately.

As long the material containing asbestos is not damaged, there is no immediate risk to your health. In fact, panicking and ripping it out can cause more harm than good. It is strongly advised to hire a licensed asbestos contractor, who can provide further advice.

5) Wearing a mask means you won’t breathe in any asbestos fibres.

Asbestos contractors wear specialist face masks with filtration, designed specifically to protect them from breathing in the fibres which cause mesothelioma. Simple masks from the DIY shop cannot provide adequate protection.

6) How to really protect yourself from breathing Asbestos:

Asbestos fibers can enter the body through the air we breathe, which is why it’s important to have respiratory protection in case of asbestos exposure. A respirator is a device designed to provide clean oxygen to the people who are wearing or surrounding the device. Here are three examples of respiratory devices used to protect against the dangers of asbestos exposure.

– Air Purifying Respirators

Air purifying respirators clean the air by passing it through a filter before it reaches you. They generally come in the form of a mask that the wearer puts over their face. These respirators either have a mechanical filter for fumes, a chemical filter for vapours, or a combination of both. In order to be effective against asbestos, air purifying respirators must have a minimum efficiency level of 99.97% as certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

– Supplied Air Respirator

These respirators provide clean air to the wearer through a mask that is connected by a hose to an external air source. A supplied air respirator is more secure than an air purifying respirator and thus is worn in more severe cases of asbestos exposure. All supplied air respirators must meet relevant health and safety standards if they are to be used.

– Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus

These respiratory devices involve a portable oxygen supply that is placed on the wearer’s back. Oxygen is supplied directly to the wearer via a portable tank. While this respiratory device is the most effective against airborne toxicity, it is also more cumbersome and therefore not always suitable for asbestos abatement procedures.

When asbestos is disturbed, particles are released into the air that can affect anyone who breathes them. While respiratory devices may provide temporary relief, the only permanent solution to asbestos exposure is to have it professionally removed. For more information about our professional asbestos abatement procedure and/or to have your property inspected for asbestos, contact Urban Environmental today at Certified Asbestos Removal and Restoration.

On average, about 200 people per week are currently falling victim to asbestos related diseases. Thankfully, as awareness about the danger of asbestos grows, and knowledge of risk reduction increases, the number of fatalities should fall.

Urban Environmental has fully trained and experienced staff to help you deal with asbestos in your British Columbia office or home, leaving you to enjoy your environment with the peace of mind you deserve.

Asbestosis and Other Remaining Major Asbestos Diseases


This is a continuation article on on asbestos-related disease listing, detailing some of the most debilitating and deathly asbestos-caused diseases.

Many thousands of scientific & medical publications have chronicled the understanding of the plethora of hazards of asbestos to human and other air-breathing, and even aquatic life.  The development of today’s level of  understanding began during the industrial revolution -most notably from the textile factories and mineral mines of Great Britain, Canada and the United States

This body of knowledge is frequently referred to in mountains of asbestos related litigation that has been taken to the courts since.   Related medical publications have been used for determining if an asbestos using company acted within the bounds of negligent behavior.

The following list of diseases regarding asbestos fibers as it pertains to humans:

Asbestosis was given that name as it is the most common asbestos-caused chronic lung disease.   Generally Asbestosis implies scarring of the lung tissue; which results from prolonged exposure to asbestos. It’s other longer definition is “diffuse interstitial pulmonary fibrosis’.   The lungs are directly affected and the disease typically manifests after 15+ or more years from initial and prolonged exposure to airborn fibers.

Asbestos-related fibrosis is “progressive” because it continues to progress in the lung tissue; even if no further asbestos is inhaled.  Scar tissue hardens the lungs, limiting elasticity.

The sharp jagged fibers scars the lung tissue and causes the alveolar walls to thicken, which reduces lung capacity and leads to the patient experiencing shortness of breath (dyspnea).

Breathing even becomes painful as the condition progresses. Scarring also impairs the lungs’ ability to supply oxygen to the blood stream; therefore patients often need oxygen tanks and pain medication to control symptoms.

There is no cure for asbestosis and its progression can’t be halted, but most symptoms are minimized with medication and oxygen supplementation. Sufferers have an increased risk for cancerous malignancies and for heart failure.

Asbestos-related lung cancer

Asbestosis often leads to lung cancer; which identical to lung cancer from smoking. Exposure to asbestos is associated with all major histological types of lung carcinoma:   small-cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinona, and large-cell carcinoma.

The time period between exposure and development of lung cancer is typically 20 to 30 years. Estimations average between 3%-8% of all lung cancers are related to asbestos. The risk of developing lung cancer depends on the amount, duration, and frequency of asbestos exposure (cumulative exposure).  Smoking is a contributing factor towards lung cancer; smokers who have been exposed to asbestos are at far greater risk of lung cancer.  Smoking and asbestos exposure have a multiplicative/synergistic effect on the risk of lung cancer.

Symptoms of lung cancer include chronic cough, chest pain, breathlessness, haemoptysis, (coughing up blood), vocal hoarseness and wheezing, weight loss and fatigue. Treatment involves surgical removal of the cancer, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or a combination of procedures. Prognosis is generally poor unless the cancer is detected in its early stages. Out of all patients diagnosed with lung cancer, only 15% survive for five years after diagnosis.

Thanks to informational commercials and infrequent news reports, most people have become aware that asbestos exposure causes mesothelioma and lung cancer. However it is less generally known that asbestos also causes/promotes cancer of the voice box (larynx) and female ovaries.

Also asbestos actually causes more benign conditions than cancerous ones. Familiarity with these other asbestos-related diseases helps those previously exposed know what symptoms to watch out for as signs of a developing condition.

Noncancerous asbestos conditions range from mild & nonthreatening to severe & life-threatening. Modern treatments and medications have improved quality of life for people coping with these conditions.
Some of the asbestos diseases listed below are life-threatening. However, an early diagnosis can make all the difference in terms of survival.

Laryngeal Cancer

Laryngeal cancer is rare and most often caused by smoking in combination with alcohol consumption. Yet a 2006 report sponsored by the National Institutes of Health proved that asbestos exposure causes cancer of the larynx, known as the voice box. In 2012 the IRAC confirmed the connection in a scientific review of all evidence to date.

Researchers suspect that inhaled asbestos fibers lodge in the voice box on the way to the lungs. Treatment varies by cancer stage and involves surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. The prognosis for small tumors that haven’t spread to lymph nodes is good with cure rates between 75 and 95 percent. If caught early enough, radiation therapy may offer a cure and preserve the patient’s voice.

Ovarian Cancer

Though it only represents 3 percent of female cancer diagnoses, ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other female reproductive cancer. In 2012, a IARC study confirmed that asbestos exposure causes ovarian cancer. Many cases were documented in women whose father or husband worked with asbestos.

Though the exact mechanism for how asbestos fibers reach the ovaries is under debate, researchers theorize the fibers are transported by the lymphatic system. Some cases were associated with talcum hygiene products that were contaminated with asbestos.

Ovarian cancer is treated with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy and targeted therapy. The overall survival rate for all types and stages of ovarian cancer is 45 percent. A fortunate 15 percent of cases are diagnosed in stage I and have a 90 percent survival rate.

Benign Pleural Diseases

While conditions like asbestosis and lung cancer affect lung tissue, other conditions affect the lining of the lungs known as the pleura. Mesothelioma is the only cancerous disease that affects the pleura, yet asbestos can cause several benign conditions to develop in the lung lining.

The pleura contains two layers: An inner layer that lines the lungs, and an outer layer that lines the ribs. The presence of asbestos fibers can cause these layers to inflame and rub against each other, a condition called pleuritis. Medication is effective at controlling pain.

As scar tissue accumulates on the lining of the lungs, collagen deposits called pleural plaques can develop. Plaques most often form on the outer layer of the pleura that lines the rib cage. Between 5 and 15 percent of plaques become calcified and harden as a result. They rarely cause symptoms, but some plaques may cause pain and could require medication.

Inflammation caused by asbestos can weaken blood vessels, causing them to leak fluid. This fluid builds up within the pleural layers, called pleural effusion, and can interfere with breathing and cause pain if left untreated. A procedure called talc pleurodesis can permanently prevent fluid buildup.

Pleural effusions often precede extensive scarring and thickening of the pleura, known as diffuse pleural thickening. As the pleura becomes rigid and thick with scar tissue and lung function is compromised, pain may develop. Medications for pain, bronchial dilation and steroids offer relief from symptoms.

If you have a history of asbestos exposure and develop any abdominal, pelvic or pulmonary pain or dysfunction, visit a primary care doctor or specialist immediately. Prognosis is improved and treatment is more effective for all asbestos-related conditions when diagnosed early.

Non-malignant asbestos-related pleural diseases

Benign asbestos-relatedpleural abnormalities encompass four types of pleural changes:

·    Pleural plaques
·    Diffuse pleural thickening
·    Benign asbestos pleural effusions
·    Rounded atelectasis (folded lung)

The pleura appears to be more sensitive than the lung parenchyma to the effects of asbestos fibres. Thus asbestos-related pleural diseases can result from much lower doses than the fibrotic changes in the lung.
Pleural plaques

Pleural plaques are the most common manifestation of asbestos exposure, affecting up to 58% of asbestos-exposed workers. The prevalence among the general population exposed environmentally ranges from 0.53 to 8%. Pleural plaques are discrete circumscribed areas of hyaline fibrosis (patches of thickening) of the parietal pleura and rarely the visceral pleura; which develop 20 to 40 years after first exposure. Over time, usually more than 30 years, they often become partly calcified. They consist of mature collagen fibers arranged in an open basket-weave pattern and are covered by flattened or cuboidal mesothelial  cells.They have a white or pale yellow shaggy appearance and are typically distributed on the posterolateral chest wall, diaphram, and mediastinal pleura. The number and size varies. Pleural plaques are typically asymptomatic, however, there is still some controversy on this topic.

An association between pleural plaques and chest pain has been reported.  Similarly, an association between pleural plaques and a restrictive impairment with diminished diffusing capacity on pulmonary function testing has been observed.  This has not been a consistent finding and it has been postulated that this might be related to undetected early fibrosis.  The pathogenesis of pleural plaques remains uncertain. The most likely explanation is that asbestos fibres reach the parietal pleura by passage through lymphatic channels where they excite an inflammatory reaction. The chest X-ray is the usual tool for diagnosing pleural plaques but chest CT scans are more sensitive and specific in this regard. Pleural plaques are evidence of past asbestos exposure and indicate an increased risk for the future development of other asbestos-related diseases. Pleural plaques in themselves are not pre-malignant. Individuals with pleural plaques are usually not compensated in most compensation systems.

Benign asbestos pleural effusion

Benign asbestos pleural effusion is an exudative pleural effusion (a buildup of fluid between the two pleural layers) following asbestos exposure. It is relatively uncommon and the earliest manifestation of disease following asbestos exposure, usually occurring within 10 years from exposure. Effusions may be asymptomatic but rarely, they can cause pain, fever, and breathlessness.  Effusions usually last for 3–4 months and then resolve completely. They can also progress to diffuse pleural thickening. Diagnosis relies on a compatible history of asbestos exposure and exclusion of other probable causes.

Clubbed Fingers

About half of all people with severe asbestosis develop a condition known as clubbed fingers. The tips of fingers become misshapen, swollen and may take on a box-like appearance. The condition appears to be caused by the biological effects of asbestosis rather than directly by asbestos fibers.

Clubbed fingers tend to develop early and don’t go away once developed. It is a sign of more severe asbestosis and is associated with higher mortality and likelihood of disease progression.

Rounded atelectasis

Rounded atelectasis (also known as Blesovskys or folded lung syndrome) develops from infolding of thickened visceral pleura with collapse of the intervening lung parenchyma.  It presents radiographically as a mass and may be mistaken for a tumour. On a CT scan of the chest it appears as a rounded mass like opacity in the peripheral lung adjacent to thickened pleura and with curvilinear opacities which are the bronchi and vessels (comet tail).

Rounded atelectasis is the least common asbestos-related benign pleural disease. Exposure to asbestos is the most likely cause today but it can occur following other medical conditions. It is a chronic condition and usually asymptomatic.

In Summary:

Asbestos is perpetually and persistently dangerous.  It should have never been used in building material for homes and offices.  

Leave it to the professionals at Urban Environmental to diagnose the contamination level of a designated area – and to properly, effectively, and lasting resolve the situation for the health benefit of all those who frequent a contaminated building.

Urban Environment is the superior choice for Asbestos Removal Service in the entire Lower Mainland.

Urban Environmental Ltd.

100 Braid St, #300,
New Westminster, BC V3L 3G1
tel • 604-544-2973
fax • 604-299-0752

202-1106 Austin Avenue,
Coquitlam, BC V3K 3P5
tel • 604-299-0379

200-4170 Still Creek Drive,
Burnaby, BC V5C 6C6
tel • 604-229-9882

901 West Third St,
North Vancouver, BC V7P 3P9
tel • 604-259-9892

1500-701 West Georgia St,
Vancouver, BC V7Y 1C6
tel • 604-259-2562

305-5811 Cooney Road,
Richmond, BC V6X 3M1
tel • 604-229-9872

250-2411 160th St,
Surrey, BC V3S 0C8
tel • 604-239-0822

4-32465 South Fraser Way,
Abbotsford, BC, CA
tel • 604-800-1903

9-45905 Yale Road,
Chilliwack, BC, CA
tel • 604-330-8827

38109 Second Avenue,
Squamish, BC, CA
tel • 604-800-3388

1489 Marine Drive,
West Vancouver, BC, CA
tel • 604-670-6041

260-22529 Lougheed Highway,
Maple Ridge, BC, CA
tel • 604-670-7711

The most harmful disease associated with Asbestos Exposure “Mesothelioma”

It is now generally known in modern times that airborne asbestos exposure is dangerous and harmful to a person’s health.

The 3 types of “asbestos-related lung disease” are: 1) scarring (“asbestosis”), 2) non-cancerous disease of the tissue of the lining of the surface of the lung (“pleural disease”), and lung cancer (of the lungs or their outer lining tissue [“mesothelioma”]).

In this first of a short series of articles, we will go into detail about the worst of the batch, that is “mesothelioma”.

Overview of Asbestos Exposure

Airborne asbestos exposure has been directly ( and unmistakably ) linked to the development of serious respiratory diseases & cancers, including “mesothelioma”, lung cancer, asbestosis, and other conditions. Asbestos exposure is most prominently related to environmental, occupational, and second-hand factors.

For the past century, asbestos has become one of the most commonly used materials in various industries such as: commercial and home construction, shipbuilding & a variety of manufactured products.

Despite the countless clues that asbestos is dangerous, going back since the turn of the century, it was not until recent modern times that researchers officially established the connection between asbestos exposure and serious respiratory conditions. Although evidence was scientifically documented and presented in the early 1920’s, by then it was persistently covered-up by asbestos industry lobbyists and corrupt government officials.

However, by then too many millions of workers had been exposed in the workplace, in their homes, and in other locations. While US government asbestos exposure limits were imposed in 1972, an estimated 10,000 people in the United States continue to pass away each year from related illnesses; and a proportionate numbers of Canadians – although those numbers vary from report to report.

How Asbestos Exposure Happens

Asbestos exposure occurs when a person (or animal – or fish) inhales, ingests or swallows microscopic asbestos fibers. In very trace amounts it is part of our atmosphere. most everyone breathes in at least some trace amounts of asbestos from the outside air – but these trace amounts rarely cause health problems. No level of asbestos exposure is considered perfectly safe, but most asbestos-related illnesses arise after heavy and/or repeated (generally occupational) exposures.

Construction work & home renovations are known to be especially hazardous as so many common building materials have contained one of the several forms (chemical compositions) of asbestos. When asbestos products start to deteriorate – or someone physically sands, saws into, drills or otherwise disturbs the crystalline fibers it then begins releasing microscopic fibers, seemingly invisible they dissolve into the surrounding air.

Asbestos fibers, most often smaller than dust particles, can remain/floating (known as a “colloidal” solution) airborne for hours… placing air breathing life-forms nearby in danger. Once the microscopic, jagged, and insoluble crystal fibers are inhaled – each particle becomes trapped in the respiratory tract & lungs, where these fibers will most probably stay forever.

Health Risks of Asbestosis Exposure

So over lengths of time, asbestos fibers incrementally accumulate in the lungs; consequentially causing inflammation & tissue scarring. When too much has been inhaled, breathing becomes increasingly difficult , more of a task rather than an involuntary motion. These crystals are sharp and abrasive – damaging tissue and even DNA strands – thereby leading to cancer, and other illnesses. Both a pro & a con: symptoms of these diseases usually doesn’t appear until 1 to 4 (or more) decades after the exposure initially (or again, incrementally accumulated) occurs.

Mesothelioma disease – asbestos’s most lethal consequence

Each year, approximately 2,000 to 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare cancer caused almost exclusively by asbestos exposure and similarly in number, 2,000 to 3,200 people die from asbestos-related lung cancer annually. An estimated 1/4 million people in the North America are currently are living with “asbestosis”, an inflammatory lung condition caused by inhaling asbestos.

Malignant Mesothelioma

Malignant mesothelioma is an asbestos-exposure related cancer that forms on the thin protective tissue that cover the lungs and abdomen.

Asbestos is the single largest cause of occupational cancer in Canada and the United States.

Modern treatment methods are helping people ease symptoms and improve their survival odds.

Asbestos can directly cause 4 distinct malignancies and may increase a person’s generalized risk for development of several other types of cancers apart from the chest cavity. Although any significant (non-trace) amounts of exposure can cause cancer,people who inhaled or ingested large amounts of asbestos fibers for extended periods of time retain the highest risk of developing these cancers.

Mesothelioma is the signature asbestos-related cancer. It is also one of the most deadly related diseases, causing between 2,000 and 3,000 deaths each year in the United States alone; together with a similar ratio/proportion for Canadians. On average, the prognosis for subsequent longevity is less than 1 year from the time of diagnosis.

This cancer is named after the “mesothelium” – the thin protective lining where the tumors develop. Mesothelium can be found on the lining of the lungs, stomach, heart or testicles. Cancers are known respectively as: a) pleural mesothelioma, b) peritoneal mesothelioma, c) pericardial mesothelioma and d) testicular mesothelioma. Each type of mesothelioma brings with it a unique set of symptoms. However, chest or abdominal pain and shortness of breath affect all patients – regardless of their specific diagnosis. Most people have the “pleural” type, which forms on the lining of the lungs, but the cancer can also form around the lining of the abdomen or heart.

Although asbestos material application in Canada (and the US) has declined sharply in recent decades – a continuous stream of people are still coming down with mesothelioma. The main reason for it is that typically it takes anywhere from 20 to 50 years (after asbestos exposure) before symptoms even appear.

While there’s no known (or possible) cure for mesothelioma, researchers have made significant achievements in their understanding of the metabolic activity of the cancer and thus are developing new treatment options and alternative therapies.

How Does Asbestos Cause Cancer?

Mesothelioma clusters are typically linked back to people who were exposed to airborne asbestos in the workplace: shipyards, industrial factories, auto repair shops, older houses, schools and various other public buildings. Up to 70-80% of people with mesothelioma were exposed to asbestos at work. Normally it takes long-term exposure to put a person at risk, however short-term and even 1-time exposures have also been linked to this cancer.

Basically asbestos inhalation occurs, fibers permanently lodge in mesothelial tissue and fibers cause cellular damage, subsequent result is tumor growth.

When inhaled or swallowed these microscopic fibers over decades, the trapped fibers trigger biological changes that can cause inflammation, scarring and genetic damage that is often the precursor to cancerous tissue growth. The lengthy gap between asbestos exposure and diagnosis is called the “latency period”.

Asbestos fibers most often become trapped in the lining of the lungs, the pleura, but they usually also lodge into in the lining of the abdominal cavity from swallowing fibers mixed with saliva or heart post-asbestos-digestion/absorption into the body. Once fibers cause biological damage, the stage is set for the decades-long latency period for the development of malignant mesothelioma.

A study conducted in 2013 revealed that about 125 million people across North America have been exposed to asbestos at work. It was found that the high rates of disease occurred in people whom: mined asbestos, produce products from asbestos, work with asbestos products, live with asbestos workers, or work in buildings containing asbestos. Washing clothing/laundry of someone who worked with asbestos also increases the risk.

The diagnosis may be suspected based on chest x-rays, or CT scans and then confirmed by either examining the fluid produced by the cancer or a tissue biopsy.

Treatment often includes surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. The percentage of people that live more than 5 years more following diagnosis of mesothelioma is on average 8% (from the largest study conducted in the United States).

Diagnosis typically occurs after the age of 65 and most deaths occur around 70 years old. The disease was extremely rare before the commercial use of asbestos. Talc miners were some of the first cases reported – before the industrialization of asbestos.

Mesothelioma symptoms

These symptoms may be caused by mesothelioma or by other, less serious conditions:

· Wheezing, hoarseness, coughing, shortness of breath
· Chest wall pain
· Pleural effusion, or fluid surrounding the lung
· Fatigue or anemia
· Blood in the sputum
· In severe cases, the person may have many tumor masses. The individual may develop a pnuemothorax or collapse of the lungs. The disease may metastasize; spreading to other parts of the body.

Tumors that affect the abdominal cavity often do not cause symptoms (until the tumors are at a late stage).

Symptoms include:

· Abdominal pain
· Ascites, or an abnormal buildup of fluid in the abdomen
· A mass in the abdomen
· Problems with bowel function
· Weight loss
· Blood clots in the veins, which may cause thrombophlebitis
· Disseminated intravascular coagulation, a disorder causing severe bleeding in many body organs
· Jaundice, or yellowing of the eyes and skin
· Low blood sugar level
· Pleural effusion, severe ascites
· Pulmonary emboli, or blood clots in the arteries of the lungs

Paraoccupational secondary exposure

Family members and others living with asbestos workers have an increased risk of developing mesothelioma, and possibly other asbestos-related diseases.This risk may be the result of exposure to asbestos dust brought home on the clothing and hair of asbestos workers – via washing a worker’s clothes or coming into contact with asbestos-contaminated work clothing. To reduce the chance of exposing family members to asbestos fibres, workers are usually required to shower and change their clothing before leaving the workplace.

Asbestos in buildings

Many building materials used in both public and domestic premises prior to the banning of asbestos may contain asbestos. Those performing renovation works or DIY activities may expose themselves to asbestos dust.
Call the professionals at Urban Environmental to cleanup dangerous asbestos containing homes and other work-sites!