Fungal decontamination

Decontamination of Vermiculite, Mold and Asbestos in Montreal

Have you noticed vermiculite, mold or asbestos in your home or building? Fear not: Constrox Plus provides you with the necessary information to help you detect those substances and decontaminate your premises.

Vermiculite

Vermiculite, also called Zonolite, is a ferrous aluminum-magnesium silicate that forms naturally by moisturizing certain basalts. It resembles mica in appearance. When subjected to heat, it swells and air pockets are formed, which confers flame retardant, highly absorbent, compressible and non-reactive properties along with a high cation exchange capacity.

The Use of Vermiculite
If you find vermiculite in your home (usually in the attic, but also in walls and ceilings) you should have it analyzed as it might contain asbestos. Asbestos fibres are harmful to occupants’ health if inhaled. Be aware that not all vermiculite contains asbestos. However, it’s impossible to know simply going by the appearance or year of installation. Due to its particular properties, vermiculite is often used for several applications in the building industry, including fireproofing and heat insulation, refractory materials, fireproofing mortars and concretes, waste treatment and production of safety packaging for hazardous materials. It is also valued for hydroponic cultures and as a substrate for biodegradability tests. It is also a substrate of choice for breeding reptiles and arthropods.

How It Affects Your Health
Vermiculite is presented by manufacturers as a product with no particular health risk. To date, national governments have only adopted regulations on the use of vermiculite according to the MSDS, labeling and safety precautions. However, it may contain mica, quartz, feldspar and other minerals that may cause eye problems and respiratory disorders when present in the form of dust. It is therefore necessary to use personal protection when handling vermiculite (mask and goggles) and consult the manufacturer's safety information (MSDS).

Mold

Mold is a common name given to any fungus that forms on different areas or on damp building materials. It often has the appearance of a stain in various colors. However, although mold may be visible in some cases, it might only manifest as a musty smell. Mold can contribute to poor air quality.

Where Mold Is Located
The term "fungus" means microscopic mushrooms, which are generally organisms that live by assimilating decomposing organic matter. They are transported indoors by air currents, and on animals and humans. Mold grows in damp places. It is often found in basements, attics, kitchens and bathrooms. Moreover, it appears in closets, behind furniture or in book cases, especially where there is insufficient air flow. Mold can also be seen on other damp surfaces, such as walls, windows and places where there is constant moisture or condensation. The basement and attic are areas where mold is encouraged because these are the places in the house where it is often the most damp and where there is usually insufficient air circulation.

Mold does not need a lot of nutrients to live, but requires moisture to grow. If you maintain the relative humidity at a maximum of 50%, as well as keep materials damp for too long, this may promote its growth. It generally thrives in temperatures of around 25 ° Celsius, but some molds develop at lower or much higher temperatures. Mold prefers cellulose-based materials (paper, cardboard, plasterboard, wood), because it feeds on the organic matter in these materials, but it is also able to grow on plastic surfaces, on metals and other materials like concrete if the environment is conducive (presence of surface dust). It can be found on houseplants, in your textiles and in your food. This means that all homes have mold to a greater or lesser degree.

Mold spreads through spores in the air (which are its means of reproduction). One can compare the principle to a dandelion releasing its achenes (seeds with parachutes) in the wind. The spores are volatile, which means that they stay in the air until they find a place to grow.

Since moisture promotes the development of mold, humidity is the most common cause of poor air quality inside homes, classrooms and public places. Checking humidity levels is one of the most effective ways of improving indoor air quality and protecting your health.

Did You Know...
  • Mold does not affect everyone. Some people do not develop health problems related to mold even if they are exposed.
  • Most often, molds cause eye, nose, sinus and lung irritation.
  • Molds can also cause or worsen the following conditions:
    • Allergic rhinitis: Symptoms are similar to hay fever, but this occurs more during cold weather
    • Asthma
    • Common respiratory infections: colds, sinusitis, bronchitis, etc.
  • Other effects may occur:
    • Skin problems: redness, itching
    • Sore throat, hoarseness
    • Unusual fatigue, memory and concentration problems and various other symptoms.
  • In the vast majority of cases, health problems or symptoms caused by mold disappear when the mold exposure stops.

Asbestos

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral with a generally crumbly texture. It is part of the magnesium silicate family and is used for its excellent isolative, flame retardant and draft resistant properties. There are several types of asbestos including white asbestos or beryl, which is among the most frequently used, and the amphiboles of which there are five varieties including blue asbestos or crocidolite, and brown asbestos or amosite.

Uses of Asbestos
The largest producers are Russia, Kazakhstan, China, Canada and Brazil. Although better known since the 19th century because of its industrial applications, the use of asbestos dates back to prehistoric times. Indeed, asbestos was found during archaeological excavations in Finland where people were using it to insulate their homes and manufacture pottery going back 3000 years. During ancient times, asbestos was used in Egypt, Persia and India for funeral preparations and to make clothing more durable. The Greeks and Romans also used it in weaving clothes for slaves, shrouds for the dead, towels and other linens. They used it in building construction of and even incorporated it in the manufacture of wicks for the eternal flames of the vestals. Charlemagne and Marco Polo were amazed by asbestos fabrics that were cleaned by throwing them into the fire. Throughout the Middle Ages, asbestos remained an element in pottery making.

The contamination of indoor air by asbestos is mainly due to the presence of materials containing friable asbestos, in flocked or sprayed format. This application was very common on the ceilings and walls of buildings until the late 70's. Asphalt asbestos was also widely used to protect plumbing pipes. The air gets contaminated when the asbestos materials deteriorate become friable, releasing fibres into the air.

Dangers of Asbestos
The main danger of asbestos is contracting serious lung disease by inhaling the fibres. Asbestosis or pulmonary fibrosis, lung cancer and pleural cancers and digestive diseases are very common among those who work or live in environments where there is a lot of asbestos. Other conditions, such as damage to the parietal pleura and pleural thickening, appear about 15 years after the first exposure to asbestos and cause chest pain and breathing problems. Other diseases may occur such as cancer of the larynx, the gastrointestinal tract or kidneys. The most at risk are those who work in asbestos mines, in factories or in the construction sector where asbestos is used, as well as the cleaning staff of risk areas, waste transportation employees and those working in premises insulated with asbestos. However, anyone living or working in an environment where asbestos is present is at risk of developing one of these diseases.

For questions about vermiculite, mold or asbestos, contact Constrox Plus in Montreal.