Asbestos – When Is It A Big Deal?

Worksafe BC tells us that Asbestos continues to be the number one cause of occupational disease death for workers in beautiful British Columbia. Dying of asbestos is anything but beautiful. Think of drowning slowly over months, even years before your body finally gives up the will to breathe. Not to mention the cancers, both lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Their efforts to educate the workers of this province have had much resistance over the years as the people paying the bills (building and home owners) continue to find cheap labour willing to risk their lives (and the lives of their workers) to make a quick buck usually because they just don’t get it. Although there are a variety of reasons for this, the biggest one is that many just don’t believe the facts because the consequences are not quickly apparent. It can take decades before that exposure kills the worker.

As a restoration contractor, we are called out to damage incidents and need to determine quickly if the materials that are impacted by the damage event and must be manipulated or removed are containing asbestos. If we suspect so, we send a sample to the lab for analysis. The turnaround time is usually one day, however it can be the same day if required.

The big deal (referred to in the title) is when the renovation or restoration activity has the potential to cause a release of asbestos fibres into the air where the occupants and/or workers suck them deep into their lungs. Sanding, grinding and demolition/removal activities are the highest risk activities.

It is NOT a big deal if the material doesn’t need to be disturbed. Every home built prior to approximately 1990 has asbestos in various building materials. It is not the obligation of the insurance company to remove all the asbestos from your home and replace it with new materials that do not contain asbestos when you have an insurance claim. Nor is it the obligation of the owner selling his property to remove all asbestos containing materials from their building just because the home inspector identifies that it exists.

This last point is the big one that motivates this article. There seems to be a move about, striking fear into the heart of buyers and sellers alike that the asbestos containing materials in homes they are wanting to buy/sell is dangerous and must be removed or its presence will most certainly devalue the property.  Virtually all older homes contain ACM (asbestos containing materials). It is what it is.

In summary, if you are renovating an older home, be safe. Test the materials that potentially contain and abate as per regulations as necessary. If you’re not then VIVA LIBRE!

Genesis Restorations is a proud member of the Shell Busey HouseSmart Referral Network. Click the link below to view this article on their site.

https://www.housesmartcentre.com/view_article.php?article_id=1290186625020939400

28 Nov | No replies

TOXIC MOLD???

I keep getting calls from people asking me if I can come and tell them if they have “toxic” mold in their home so I figured it’s time to blog about this.

The call usually is a variation of the following details: 1. I can see the mold. 2. I can smell the mold. 3. Someone in the home/office is constantly sick with some type of respiratory illness. 4. What should I do?

So how does the ever caring and compassionate mold expert respond? For only $1, you can eliminate your mold permanently and breathe fresh air once more. Those two changes will most certainly cause your health to improve. What can I get for a buck that will do all that? One match and almost a liter of gas. Fire and fungus just don’t get along.

Ok, let’s get back to reality. These poor folk are usually in distress about this so humor isn’t usually the right response.  I’m going to respond with serious answers to those four details.

#1 I CAN SEE IT – If you can see it, then I guarantee there is more that you can’t see. There is more surface area in a home that is hidden visually and the conditions allowing mold to grow on the surface you see is also allowing it to grow surfaces of each layer you can’t.

#2  I CAN SMELL IT –  If you can smell it, that means there are enough hyphal fragments, spores, mycotoxins and MVOC’s in the air to exceed the odour threshold. Remember that although our smellers are good,  most animals smellers are way better. Point being that if you can smell it, there’s quite a bit there.

#3 SOMEONE IS SICK – Symptoms typically affect those with weaker immune systems and those with pre-existing conditions which pre-dispose them to illness when exposed to chronic high levels of mold.  Look for changes to an individual’s health that clears up when they leave home for the day (or a vacation) and then it comes back upon their return.

#4 WHAT DO I DO? – Seek the help of an expert. Remember that the only reason mold grows is because water is where it shouldn’t be so get rid of it and fix the problem that allowed it to be there. Remove all mold. Porous materials must be disposed of (drywall is porous). Non- porous materials can be remediated.  More than a couple square feet of mold should be addressed professionally. Only complete removal is the accepted standard, killing it and leaving it (or encapsulating it) is not.

So which mold is the ‘toxic’ mold? The answer is ALL species are hazardous to your health if you breathe enough of it for long enough.

21 Nov | No replies

CTS – Can You Ever Get Rid Of The Smell?

The other morning I was talking to an adjuster whom I had sent pictures of a trauma scene to and she commented that she hadn’t seen anything so disturbing in a long time. I told her that she was lucky those pictures weren’t scratch n’ sniff.

Seriously, what people don’t get out of the news feeds of disasters around the world where death and mayhem exist is the smell. Television is so sanitized and people are so desensitized visually. But talk to people that have worked in those environments – combat soldiers, workers for the many NGO’s at disaster sites, police and firemen and what you’ll find is that the smell of death and decomposition is unforgettable. It etches one with an indelible imprint that changes you. Smells change your experience of an event as drastically as visually changing from black and white to color.

Most people have smelled a rotting fish or dead rodent but anyone that has smelled a decomposing human recognizes that the smell is different and it’s worse. Why? I’m not going to get all scientific on you here but let’s just say ‘garbage in, garbage out’. Humans consume so much garbage compared to animals that when they decompose, the odor is more foul. Processed foods, preservatives, chemical additives, etc in what we eat and drink create a unique odour. Most animals eat organic and are vegetarian.

Remember when Mythbusters did that episode where they put a pig in a Corvette and let it decompose and tried to get the smell out. They failed – “Myth Busted”. Well, they were wrong because I’ve done it successfully…many times. Yes, the odor penetrates the fiberglass, Yes, most interior parts are not cost effective to restore but the challenge isn’t one of whether the cost warrants the effort, just simply a technical challenge, ‘Can it be done?’ I developed my odor busting skills in cars from ICBC with rotting slime and maggots from one end to the other. It took a lot of experimenting before I developed successful processes.

Ok, enough intro. What’s the answer?

YES.

Is it easy? Absolutely not! In fact this is where most companies that provide decontamination services fail. I don’t intend to give away my secrets but I will discuss some odor basics.

  1. Source removal is the first step.
  2. Don’t use deodorizers to cover it up, it will come back.
  3. Just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there still.
  4. There are no instruments that are as sensitive as our noses (and our noses aren’t very good compared to many animals).
  5. Once you’ve solved the real odor problem, you often must deal with the ‘psychological’ odor.

So to summarize, yes the odor can be removed. Is it worth it? That depends.

Call Genesis for successful odor elimination services.

15 Nov | No replies

Have you seen whats up at Genesis Lately?

14 Nov | No replies

Contents Insurance – How Much Do I Need? How Do I Protect My Stuff?

This is definitely not a comprehensive training session on the topic, just a few guidelines to help that my agent never told me and I’ve seen people learn the hard way from my years as a restoration contractor.

First let’s talk about your stuff. Once a year (I do this just after Christmas) go through every room and photograph every single thing you own. Start with big perspective pictures and then open every drawer as you get to the small stuff. Don’t forget all the stuff in the garage, garden shed and the trunk of your car. Go through every picture to ensure it is in focus, zooming in to see the brand and model # is good. That $1500 suit/dress only flies if you also photo the ‘tag’. Having the receipt is better but not critical. The point is to prove what you had, how much you have and the quality.

Just having a draw that holds 400 CD’s doesn’t ‘prove’ you had 399 Cd’s. Saying that DVD collection was 250 will only fly if you have pictures that when zoomed in show 250 titles. The difference in cost between the underwear drawer being full of Victoria’s Secret vs Walmart can be $1000.

Now make a written list of all ‘real’ jewelry and ‘real’ art and ‘real’ valuable stuff. Include identifiers such as serial numbers, certificates of authenticity, and valuations/receipts of purchase. Most policies have rather low limits on this kind of thing and you don’t want that $3500 mountain bike/diamond earrings to limit out on your policy at $500. If you want coverage that exceeds the policy limits for these kinds of items, they must be ‘declared’ and the insurance company will probably require some extra premium.

Since insurance is mostly replacement cost, you need to add up what it would cost to replace absolutely everything with like, kind and quality. You may have purchased something on sale, but if your house burns and you need to stock your new residence with even the basics, you don’t have time to shop every sale.

So that’s how to figure out how much you need.

Another point to remember is that the insurance company doesn’t insure emotional distress or sentimental value. That painting by Gramma might mean a lot to you but if it’s stolen (God knows why), the insurance company will only replace the value of the frame and canvas. That also goes for your ‘little darlings’ kindergarten art that you shadow boxed. There are often items that you attach value to that the insurance company (or anyone else for that matter) don’t. What can you do to protect those? Well, that’s what security companies get rich doing and they have lots of different ideas about how to best do that. How you protect it depends on what you’re trying to protect from.

Water – store items in Rubbermaid containers NOT cardboard boxes ALWAYS. Water damage doesn’t just happen on the bottom floor or crawlspace.

Fire – Have copies of all important documents scanned and saved on your computer at work, or a portable storage device. That goes for all old negatives and all new digital pics too.

Security – remember the adage “Locks are for honest people”. Any home is easily broken into by any one who wants to enter. But if you make it harder then your neighbor, well than…..      Layer your security efforts by how hard it is to replace. There’s lots of other ways but I figure that’s what insurance is for. Your stamp/coin collection should be in a safe that’s hidden. Having said that, a friend sunk his safe into his crawlspace cement, had over $50k in a collection and lost it all when his house flooded (the safe wasn’t waterproof).

4 Nov | 1 reply