01. Asbestos-Containing Materials
What Are Asbestos-Containing Materials?
Many materials once had asbestos added to increase resistance to chemicals, heat and fire. Asbestos may also add strength, durability and flexibility to products. During the 20th century, many industries used asbestos. The height of asbestos use was from the 1930s to the 1970s when thousands of products contained asbestos. Some products before or after that time also contained the mineral. Common types of asbestos-containing materials include:
- Automotive brakes and linings
- Ceiling tiles
- Floor tiles
- Roofing shingles
- Spray coatings
- Talcum powder
These products were commonly made with different types of asbestos.
Do Products Still Contain Asbestos?
Many countries have banned asbestos use. But the United States allows it in existing materials and some imported products.
In the United States, some new products may still contain asbestos in small amounts. For example, insulation materials may contain up to 1% asbestos. Older asbestos-containing products may also still be in use. Examples include asbestos construction materials in buildings or asbestos gaskets in machinery. These past uses of asbestos continue to pose health risks.
Listed below are common asbestos products. Find information about their locations, uses and who is at risk of exposure.
02. Building Products
Asbestos-Containing Building Products
Asbestos was often used in building products before the 1980s. Many buildings in the United States were constructed with asbestos-containing materials. This puts construction workers, demolition workers and homeowners at risk of asbestos exposure.
From the early 1900s to the 1980s, adhesives, bindings and sealers often contained asbestos. Many products, like mastic, putty, caulk and construction tape, were made with asbestos. The mineral added durability and heat resistance, which made asbestos adhesives popular. Thousands of older homes and buildings still have asbestos adhesives in them today.
Asbestos Cement (Transite)
Asbestos cement, or transite, is a mixture of cement and asbestos fibers. It was used to form a variety of products, like cement pipes, roofing sheets, water tanks and flues. Asbestos cement was strong, durable and could withstand corrosion for a long time. But workers at asbestos cement manufacturers face high risks of developing mesothelioma. Today, people may experience exposure from damaged and deteriorating asbestos cement products.
From the early 1900s to the early 1990s, asbestos felt was used in roofing, flooring and paper mills. In construction, asbestos felt provided a protective layer under flooring or roofing. At paper mills, asbestos felt helped to dry paper pulp. Papermill workers, construction workers and homeowners may have been exposed to asbestos felt. Today, felt underlayments with asbestos may still be present in older homes and buildings.
Asbestos has been used in cement sheets since the early 1900s. Adding the mineral to cement sheets increases durability and temperature resistance. Asbestos cement sheets were also easier to handle than poured cement. As a result, these sheets were common in roofing and siding. Today, the United States does not allow asbestos cement sheet production. But cement sheets imported from other countries may still contain asbestos. Construction workers and homeowners may also come into contact with asbestos cement sheets in older homes.
Asbestos was used in several types of tiles, primarily for floors and ceilings. The mineral provided durability, strength and heat resistance. From the 1920s to the 1980s, various floor and ceiling tiles were manufactured with asbestos. Production dates may vary based on the manufacturer. Some homes may still contain old asbestos tiles, posing a risk during renovations or from wear and tear as they age.
Many construction materials, like roofing and siding, were made with asbestos. The mineral enhanced durability and resistance to weathering, chemical erosion and fire. There are health hazards when asbestos construction materials become damaged or disturbed. Remodeling, renovating or demolishing old buildings and homes may release asbestos fibers into the air.
Drywall and Finishing Products
For many years, drywall materials contained asbestos for added durability and heat protection. Materials used to install wallboard included joint compound (or drywall mud), which is used for connecting boards and patching walls. Drywall asbestos products were popular for use throughout homes, buildings and schools. Today, drywall materials are not made with asbestos. But many people still face exposure and related health effects from older drywall materials.
Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems use ductwork to move air throughout a space. From the 1920s to the 1980s, many HVAC components contained asbestos. These components included ductwork connectors, tapes and sealants. The mineral provided durability and temperature insulation. Asbestos is no longer used in most of these parts today, but asbestos components may still be present in older HVAC systems.
Several industries used asbestos gaskets, including construction, boilermaking, shipbuilding and manufacturing. These gaskets helped create a tight seal between pipes, valves and other parts. Asbestos was incorporated into gaskets for durability against heat and chemicals. Asbestos-containing gaskets were manufactured in the United States until the 1980s. But some may still be present in older vehicles and machinery.
Asbestos was used for a variety of insulating materials. Products like loose-fill insulation in walls, spray-on insulation and block insulation contained asbestos. Today, there are regulations in place to limit the use of asbestos. But the mineral can still be used in insulation as long as it does not exceed 1%. Homes, schools and other buildings may also have older asbestos insulation, which may contain higher amounts of asbestos.
Popcorn Ceiling Products
Popcorn ceilings and other spray-on ceiling products may have contained asbestos. The mineral provided durability, heat resistance and fire resistance. These asbestos-containing products were common from 1945 to the early 1990s. Construction workers and homeowners may face asbestos exposure as these products age or degrade. Disturbing asbestos popcorn ceilings can also lead to exposure. For example, renovation and removal may release asbestos fibers.
Asbestos was used in vinyl products to enhance their durability and heat resistance. The mineral was most often used in products like vinyl floor tiles, sheet flooring and wallpaper. Asbestos was also frequently added to the adhesives and backings of these products. As a result, scoring, tearing or removing vinyl products can release asbestos fibers. Asbestos is no longer used in today’s vinyl products. But it may still be present in older homes and buildings.
Zonolite was a widely used brand of asbestos-contaminated vermiculite insulation. Its most common use was to insulate attics. Construction workers and homeowners may have been exposed to asbestos in Zonolite insulation. The material is no longer produced today. Still, people may come into contact with it in older homes and buildings.
03. Consumer Products
Many consumer products manufactured in the 1900s pose asbestos exposure concerns. Some materials today may still contain the mineral. Contaminated consumer goods include slow cookers, paint and other popular items. These products put the population at risk of developing asbestos-related diseases.
From 1952 to 1956, Lorillard Tobacco Company made Kent Micronite cigarettes with asbestos filters. The company thought it would filter out smoke irritants, providing a smoother smoking experience. Many consumers likely inhaled asbestos fibers while smoking these cigarettes. Anyone who smoked these Kent Micronite cigarettes may have been exposed to asbestos.
04. Fire-Resistant Products
Fireproofing and Fire-Resistant Products
Being naturally fire resistant, asbestos was popular for various fireproofing materials and products. Asbestos-containing fireproof products include asbestos cloth, fire blocks and fire safety gear. These materials put firefighters, construction workers and other people at risk of exposure. Some of these asbestos-containing fireproofing products are still actively produced today.
Asbestos was often woven into textiles for fire-resistant clothing and blankets. Fibrous chrysotile asbestos was easy to weave into these protective fabrics. Firefighters, first responders and industrial workers often used fire-resistant garments like asbestos gloves. By 1990, asbestos textile manufacturing stopped. But these products may still be present in older homes, buildings and jobsites.
05. Personal Care Products
Personal Care Products Containing Asbestos
Personal hygiene products and makeup may contain asbestos-contaminated talc. The two mineral deposits often develop near each other. Asbestos contamination of talc may occur while mining. Anyone may be exposed while manufacturing, selling or using these asbestos-contaminated talc products. Exposure to these products may lead to mesothelioma or another related disease.
Talc deposits are often found near asbestos. This has led to asbestos-contaminated talc in many consumer products. For example, testing shows asbestos in some talc-based baby powders and talc-based cosmetics. Thousands of consumers have filed lawsuits against manufacturers for contaminated talcum powder products.
Many cosmetic products contain talcum powder to help them feel smooth and absorb moisture. But talc can be easily contaminated with asbestos. As a result, powder-based products like eye shadows and blushes may contain asbestos. Recent news has raised concerns about the presence of asbestos in children’s makeup. Stores like Claire’s© and Justice® have recalled several contaminated products.
06. Transportation & Automotive Parts
Transportation and Automotive Products
For decades, the transportation and automotive industry has used asbestos in its products. Common asbestos automotive materials include brake pads, brake shoes and brake linings. The automotive industry used the mineral to enhance friction in braking components. Asbestos could also withstand high temperatures. This helped keep equipment and operators safe from fires. But hundreds of thousands of employees in this industry and consumers face asbestos exposure risks.
Once considered a miracle mineral, research has instead proven asbestos is dangerous. Millions of people have been exposed to asbestos through these products. They are at risk of developing asbestos-related diseases, like malignant mesothelioma or lung cancer. Recognizing known asbestos products and understanding the risks may help prevent exposure. Without a full asbestos ban, people can take steps to avoid products that may contain the mineral.