Designated Substance Survey

Designated substances may be found in any building in Ontario built before the 1990s. By law, a designated substance survey is needed for these buildings when any construction activities occur in the building including renovating and demolishing the structure. An FAQ is provided below that outlines what designated substances are, where they are found, and why you need to worry about them. If you have any questions, please contact us for further information.

Why do you need a survey

Designated substances can pose a threat to the health and safety of people working and living around them. Most materials are considered to be safe when they are left undisturbed but can be released into the air as they degrade over time. Since designated substances can be found in a wide variety of materials in your home / building it is necessary to know what materials contain the designated substances. This is especially the case when renovating or demolishing a home / building that was built before the 1990s when the use of these substances was common practice.

The Ontario Health and Safety Act (OHSA) regulates workaround designated substances and mandates that a designated substance survey is completed on buildings built before 1990 prior to any renovations being completed. The survey provides the homeowner and contractor with a list of designated substances that were detected in the building and advises on how to manage the substances in a safe manner.

A designated substance survey can also be useful for planning future renovations and maintaining your home / building. Once designated substances are identified you are able to manage their condition and confirm that they are not disturbed without the proper safety measures in place. If designated substances are left unidentified they may be left to deteriorate and be handled incorrectly leading to adverse health effects. A designated substance survey can help ensure the safety of the people that work and reside in your building / home.

What we offer.

Peritus offers a full range of services associated with designated substances including Designated Substance Surveys, Asbestos Surveys, Designated Substance Management Plans, and Asbestos Management Plans. Our surveys include:

  • A site visit for visual assessment and sample collection
  • Laboratory testing from a certified Laboratory to confirm the presence of any suspected designated substances
  • A detailed report that outlines what designated substances we found and what building materials contained them.
  • Recommendations on how to properly manage any designated substances found in the building

We conduct all of our surveys in compliance with local and federal legislation so that our work is completed in a thorough and safe manner. Peritus staff has years of experience identifying designated substances and will be able to help smoothly deal with any questions that you may have.

Contact us for a free quote for your building today.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

What are they?

Designated substances are materials that were historically used in builds that can be harmful to people. The most common, regulated designated substances found in Ontario are asbestos, silica, lead, and mercury. The Ontario Occupation Health and Safety Act (OHSA) outlines several other materials that are deemed hazardous and considered designated substances. The entire list includes:

  • Mercury
  • Asbestos
  • Lead
  • Arsenic
  • Coke Oven Emissions
  • Silica
  • Benzene
  • Isocyanates
  • Acrylonitrile
  • Ethylene Oxide
  • Vinyl Chloride Monomer

Where are they found?

Designated substances were commonly used in a wide variety of building materials before the 1990s. These substances have been phased out from day to day use but may still be found in your building (i.e., cement drainage lines in condos). Locations of the most common designated substances can be found below.


Before the 1990s asbestos was widely used in many building materials that can be found in your home or building. These products include:

  • Plaster
  • Insulation
  • Pipe Wraps
  • Mortar
  • Vinyl Flooring
  • Ceiling Tiles
  • Adhesives
  • Caulking/Sealants
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Asbestos was used in such a variety of products because it is naturally resistant to heat, fire, chemicals, and biological breakdown. These properties are in part due to the fibrous nature of the mineral. These fibers are also the cause of the many health issues that occur due to inhalation of asbestos dust. The dust contains small fibers that can scar and injure your lung tissues which can lead to lung cancer (mesothelioma) and asbestosis. The fibers can also be a skin / eye irritant if in contact with exposed skin or eyes.

Lead and Mercury

Before the late 1970’s lead was widely used in paints, plumbing and other construction materials. Mercury has been used in various electrical equipment such as thermostats/switches and fluorescent light bulbs. In addition, until 1991, the addition of mercury to paints and other surface coating materials was unregulated. Exposure to either of these substances can cause heavy metal poisoning. Children are at most risk from heavy metals which can seriously affect their physical and mental development.


Silica is present in many concrete applications and many types of masonry. Although it is considered safe when undisturbed; if these materials are cut the silica can become airborne as silica dust. The inhalation of this dust can cause long-term health effects including increased risks for lung cancer, pulmonary disease, and kidney disease.

Have questions? Need help? 

Contact us if you have any questions about how to manage the soil at any of your sites.