Asbestos in Sleeves and Other Building Materials
In building construction and furnace systems, the word "sleeve" may refer to either a tube that surrounds a smaller pipe or set of pipes, or a tube used to create an opening in a concrete wall or slab to allow drainage or insertion of pipes. In some cases, sleeves are used as a form of fire protection around furnaces, and may be employed to join the furnace with the heating ducts and conduits.
Asbestos sleeves may remain in the basement, heating and plumbing systems of thousands of buildings and homes built prior to the 1980s. In the 1970s the public became much more aware of the health risks posed by asbestos, and pressure mounted for legislative as well as de facto bans. Very few asbestos-containing products are still manufactured in the United States. Most nations of the world have similar regulations, but there are some places where asbestos-containing construction materials are still built; builders and renovators must be careful about what they purchase.
Asbestos sleeves can also refer to protective clothing made from asbestos or packing sleeves made from asbestos for transporting items in heat- and corrosion-resistant packaging.
Hazards Associated with Sleeve Products
When intact, these materials present little danger. However, as most of these were installed over thirty years ago, the likelihood that such materials have become worn, brittle and capable of releasing loose fibers into the air is high. When faced with the removal or repair of older asbestos products it is best to handle it with the help of a professional asbestos abatement contractor (and if it is a public building or rental property, the owner-landlord is legally obliged to have the materials professionally removed by state and federal law).
Health consequences of long-term asbestos exposure range from non-malignant respiratory disease to full-blown mesothelioma cancer. Asbestosis is the most common of such diseases, caused by scarring of the lungs. Such exposure can also result in a hardening of lung tissue as well as some auto-immune diseases.
Bowker, Michael. Fatal Deception: The Untold Story of Asbestos (New York: Touchstone, 2003)