As a naturally occurring mineral with many seemingly positive qualities, including resistance to chemicals, heat and fire, strength, durability and flexibility, asbestos has been used in a wide variety of products. Some items were manufactured purposely with asbestos, such as building materials used before 1980, and some consumer goods continue to emerge with asbestos concerns, such as talcum powder and potting soils.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has monitored the use of asbestos and measured the risk that it poses to the public, even attempting a ban in 1989 that was later overturned. Certain products and applications of asbestos are no longer allowed and there has been a push for a full ban, as many countries have already halted use of the toxin altogether.
Aside from household exposure, a significant amount of asbestos exposure has occurred in the workplace. These high-risk occupations have put many in danger of developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases as workers handle contaminated products and materials frequently, leading to long-term exposure.
Many products are still allowed to contain asbestos in small amounts and historic uses are prevalent today, continuing to pose a risk. These products are listed below, where more information can be found on items and materials that contain asbestos, their uses and the risk posed to those exposed.
Asbestos was used in adhesives, bonding and sealers for nearly a century, from the 1880s through the 1980s. Products like mastic, putty, caulk and construction tape were all often made with asbestos to add durability and heat resistance. Since asbestos was a popular additive to these products, past uses still remain in thousands of older homes and buildings today.
Asbestos cement, or transite, is a mixture of cement and asbestos fibers used to form a variety of products ranging from pipes and roofing sheets to water tanks and flues. Asbestos cement was strong and durable, ideal for withstanding corrosion with a long lifespan. However, asbestos cement manufacturers were at high risk for developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases, along with others now experiencing exposure from damaged and deteriorating AC products.
Construction materials were frequently made with asbestos to help enhance durability and create structures that would withstand weathering and stand up to the hazards of chemical erosion and fire. However, hazards are presented when materials are damaged or crumbled, old homes are remodeled, renovated or demolishes and asbestos fibers are released into the air.
Consumer products manufactured in the 1900s, as well as some that have been made today, present concerns regarding asbestos exposure. Contaminated consumer goods include baby powder, crock pots, paint and other popular items, putting the population at risk of developing asbestos-related diseases.
Since asbestos is a known natural fire retardant, it quickly became used for a number of fireproofing and fire-resistant products, including asbestos cloth, fire blocks and fire safety gear. These materials put firefighters, construction workers and numerous other industries at risk of exposure, and some of these products can still be actively produced today.
Asbestos was utilized for a variety of insulating materials, like loose-fill insulation in walls, spray on insulation and block insulation. Though there are regulations in place to limit the use of asbestos, the toxin can still be used in insulation today as long as it does not exceed 1%.
Natural talc and asbestos deposits are often found near to each other, which has led to contaminated talc making its way into many consumer products, like baby powder and cosmetics. Because of this dangerous contamination, thousands of consumers are taking legal action against manufacturers of talcum powder products.
The transportation and automotive industry has incorporated asbestos into their products for years with its ability to enhance friction for braking components and withstand high temperatures to help keep equipment and operators safe from fires. However, with hundreds of thousands of employees in this industry, many have been, and continue to be, at risk of asbestos exposure.
Once thought to be a miraculous material, asbestos was proven to be a dangerous toxin, putting millions at risk of developing asbestos-related disease, including malignant mesothelioma. Recognizing products that have been known to contain the toxin and understanding the risks can help prevent exposure and stress the importance of achieving a full ban of the carcinogen.