Asbestos is a strong, fire-resistant mineral fibre that was initially popular because it was thought to provide excellent insulation against heat and noise, as well as fire protection. It was also added to materials such as cement and plaster to increase their structural strength.
Until the early 1980s, many products containing asbestos were used in house construction. Some products, such as asbestos-containing vermiculite insulation, were used in homes right up until the late 1980s. When you are renovating or demolishing an older house, there is a high probability of encountering asbestos-containing materials.
If asbestos-containing materials are in good condition and left intact, they do not pose a significant danger of releasing asbestos fibres into the air you breathe. However, these materials are hazardous when they deteriorate or are disturbed, such as when they are handled, sanded, drilled into, or broken up so that they crumble. To avoid disturbing asbestos-containing materials, you must know where they are before you begin renovations. As well, since the particles are extremely fine and light weight, they can quickly contaminate a whole home if not contained effectively.