The City of Toronto has dealt with nearly 200 asbestos concerns in its public buildings over the last five years, CTV Toronto has learned.

Documents obtained by CTV Toronto's Natalie Johnson under a freedom-of-information request reveals the city has had to remove or seal asbestos in 185 of its buildings since 2010. Last year, the city removed or sealed asbestos in 23 of its buildings. The work has cost the city more than $1 million annually.

According to a manager at Toronto Public Health, asbestos can found in many buildings, and is a problem that many municipalities deal with.

"It's in many buildings across the city, and we're no different from any city in North America in that regard," Reg Ayre told CTV Toronto.

Until the early 1980s, asbestos was a popular material used widely in many construction projects. The tiny heat-and-fire resistant threads were used in ceiling and floor tiles, insulation, and pipes.

But the discovery that it can lead to serious respiratory disease and lung cancer when disturbed meant many builders stopped using asbestos.

"The concern is when it becomes friable, when it becomes powdery and it enters the breathable air, that’s when you’ve got to be concerned," Ayre said.

Experts say although asbestos can be found in many older buildings, the risk to the public is low – especially if it not disturbed.

"There's a lot of other things we should spend more effort on that would have bigger impact on people’s lives," University of Toronto engineering professor Jeffrey Siegell said.

City officials say they are removing or sealing asbestos in its buildings as a proactive measure during renovations, construction, demolition or maintenance.

They add that the city actively manages its record of buildings containing asbestos, and inspect them regularly to ensure employees are not at risk.

With a report from CTV Toronto's Natalie Johnson