Air Ducts, Asbestos, and the Air We Breathe

Air ducts and asbestos may not seem like they are related elements of a home or building construction. With the hot housing market in Toronto and the GTA, many older homes are going on the market unrenovated, in an as-is condition. It’s also more attractive to many homeowners to renovate than buy.

That means you should be aware of asbestos and all the places it may show up in your home – including seemingly out of the way locations such as the HVAC system.

Asbestos and HVAC
Here are some of the ways that asbestos and asbestos containing materials (ACM) might have found a way into your air and heating duct work.

  • Before the 1980s, the heating ducts in many homes were installed with insulation that contained asbestos. Most of the ACM insulation was installed with sheet metal duct work, and fabricated between 1950 and 1975.
  • Some duct work itself was made with ACM in a sheet material that resembles the insulating material. That means it can be difficult to tell just by looking whether the duct is wrapped in ACM insulation, or made of ACM itself.
  • A type of duct tape was once also made with ACM and used extensively in construction for decades. It is thicker than modern duct tape, and white or grey in colour.
  • Other sealants, such as putty, may also contain ACM, and be used in and around duct work.
  • The asbestos paper that was used in HVAC systems to wrap around air ducts, or as sealant, typically contains about 15% chrysotile asbestos.

The danger
Asbestos and asbestos containing materials are considered safe as long as they are intact. However, once, the material begins to deteriorate – and, while asbestos itself is very durable, in ACM, the other materials will certainly begin to deteriorate over time – they can create the friable dust. Once inhaled into the lungs, asbestos never goes away, and over time, can cause respiratory and other problems, including lung cancers, and deadly mesothelioma.

  • Just peeling off deteriorating ACM duct tape can release breathable asbestos fibres;
  • Deteriorating ACM ducts can release asbestos fibres into the whole HVAC system, dispersing it throughout your home;
  • Even though insulation is wrapped around ducts, if the duct becomes punctured or damaged, asbestos dust from ACM insulation can also enter your HVAC system.

Certainly, if you are upgrading your HVAC system, or doing any work that involves cutting into walls, you need to be aware of the presence of asbestos.

Safe, not sorry
If you have asbestos anywhere in your home, let us help with the next step: asbestos removal. Our experienced and certified asbestos removal and asbestos remediation technicians can help keep you and your family safe. In the Toronto area call Environmental at (416) 818-9414. Contact us for a quote today.

Featured in Mike Holmes’ magazine, HGTV’s Income Properties, W Network’s Love It Or List It and chosen by Homestars.com as “Best Toronto Asbestos Removal Company” based on customer ratings and reviews, GreenStream Environmental Services are fully-certified, trusted and insured professionals in the removal and disposal of commercial, industrial, institutional and residential asbestos, vermiculite and mould (hazardous and non-hazardous). Providing emergency service 24/7/365 for all of Toronto and the GTA (North York, Mississauga, Markham, Brampton, Scarborough, Ajax, Oshawa, and beyond) GreenStream has over 40 combined years of experience serving clients such as the City of Toronto, the Toronto District School Board and many more. For a free estimate in Toronto, the GTA and Southern Ontario, call today at 416-818-9414. You’ll be glad you did.