Canadian Contractor

Killer asbestos: Where it's hiding

We recently heard about a man who died in his early 50s, from asbestos cancer-poisoning of his chest and abdomen. He wasn't even a contractor. He was the son of a contractor who used to shake out his work clothes when he came home each day. That's how deadly asbestos can be.

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February 5, 2013 by Alec Caldwell

At one of our recent Contractors’ Asbestos Awareness workshops, I realized how dangerous this substance can be for any renovator or contractor working on older homes. It hides, lying in wait. Once disturbed, it becomes dangerous and releases airborne fibres. Once these fibres are breathed in, they could well shorten your life, by causing asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma (cancer of the lining of the chest and or abdomen).

This highly toxic material was used widely in the construction industry until the 1980s. You are likely encountering it, whether you realize it or not. Asbestos hides in many places. You can find it in pre 1980 drywall joint compounds, in plaster walls, ceilings, in attics with vermiculite insulation, in cement shingles, acoustic tiles, textured ceiling pipe insulation, duct heating tape, soffits, light fixtures, caulking materials… literally hundreds of different home improvement products.

Ever see floor tiles in an older home that you are renovating, that look like they are in pristine condition after decades of use? Probably because they contain asbestos! It’s that durable.

There are legal requirements in each province on how to handle, work, remove and dispose of asbestos.  The Ontario regulations are called: Designated SubstancesAsbestos on Construction Projects and in Buildings and Repair Operations (Ontario regulation 278/05) This information is available from the Infrastructure Health & Safety Association (IHSA) which also publishes Asbestos: Controls for Construction, Renovation and Demolition (DS037). You can order this at the IHSA.

It’s time for contractors to get fully educated about asbestos and its dangers. There are different types of asbestos operations out there, classified as Type 1, Type 2 & Type 3. Courses on these are available from many organizations and most come with a certificate of course completion, including through us.

Our recent workshop presenter Rick Parsons talked about someone he knew in his early 50’s who recently died from cancer of the lining of the chest after inhaling asbestos fibres. He never even worked near this toxic substance in his shortened lifetime. The fibres were transported in his father’s clothing from his work. Once home he’d shake his clothes before putting them in to the laundry. Who know then what a legacy he would leave his son!  Get educated now about the air you breathe.

For information contact us Toll Free 1-866-366-2930

I recommend readers take a moment to view this short video produced by Work Safe  British Columbia (






Alec Caldwell

Alec Caldwell

Alec Caldwell is the Founder of CARAHS, a Health & Safety Organization. We are approved providers by the Ministry of Labour (Ontario) to teach Working at Heights Training (Pro#34609) Visit the Ministry of Labour's web site to view our listing
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7 Comments » for Killer asbestos: Where it's hiding
  1. Frank Scalia says:

    Well at least us small contractors will have WSIB. Wonder what if anything they would cover?

  2. My husband recently passed away from lung cancer. He never smoked and lived a very healthy lifestyle. Latent exposure to asbestos was the determined cause and his case was totally WCB funded . He was 51. We have a 14 year old son… It is really sad. We do our best in our company to ensure the safety of our employees and the customers we serve.

  3. Hi Marie,
    Thank you very much for sharing your very personal message with everyone.

    Your story allows others to realise asbestos is a real problem and they should always take percussions to protect themselves and everyone around them, including their family’s future security.

    It also good to hear WSIB stepped up to the plate when needed, as many people comment negatively about them in times of dire need.

    On behalf of CARAHS, we wish you and your family lots of sunshine for 2013 and in the coming years.

    Yours sincerely,

    Alec Caldwell Founder CARAHS

    Copy and paste this link –

  5. Claire Casey says:

    I think it’s absolutely disgusting that there are people still being exposed to this material. They need to learn what asbestos looks like. If they come across something that looks like it could be asbestos they should report it and not disturb it until they know for sure. It is best to be wrong and live than to take a chance and die

  6. You may be 17, 18 or any other age, but you’re not immortal and what you do today may have terrible consequences 30 years down the road. 30 or 40 years may seem like a long time, but I can assure you it isn’t. That time goes fast. If you take risks with asbestos you could die of mesothelioma and it is not a nice disease.