It’s difficult to breathe easy if you know your home has asbestos lurking in the attic or basement. But it’s understandable that you might feel anxious knowing your house contains a substance that’s currently thought of as public enemy number one.

Don’t fret or buy into the hype. Vermiculite-containing asbestos has gotten an undeservedly bad rap. It’s true that some Canadian homes have it. It’s true that a mine in Montana is responsible for supplying most of it to North America. But here’s the catch. As long as you don’t touch it, it’s fine.

Vermiculite-containing asbestos will only pose a threat if you are breathing in its fibres. According to Health Canada, as long as asbestos fibres are enclosed or tightly bound in a product such as asbestos siding or floor tiles, there are no significant health risks. However, if you think otherwise, your level of exposure is what you need to watch. Look for:

• The concentration of asbestos fibres in the air

• How long you were exposed

• How often

• The size of the asbestos fibres inhaled

• The amount of time since the initial exposure

Commonly found as insulation on basement boilers and pipes and in attics, asbestos was also used in vinyl floor tiles, some glues and linoleum, window caulking, roofing materials, siding material and plaster.

If you learn that your home has asbestos, leave it alone if it’s in good condition. You don’t want to disturb it and cause its fibres to freefall throughout your home. If you find asbestos that is torn or damaged curtail access to that area of your house and keep an eye on its deterioration.

Never try to remove asbestos products yourself. Speak to a trained and qualified asbestos removal or abatement professional. If you are planning to remodel your home and the renovation would disturb the asbestos-containing building material contact a qualified asbestos removal professional first.

For more information visit the Health Canada website: