01. Asbestos-Containing Materials
What Are Asbestos-Containing Materials?
Asbestos is added to materials to increase resistance to chemicals, heat and fire. It may also add strength, durability and flexibility to products. During the 20th century, many industries used asbestos. From the 1930s to the 1970s, thousands of products contained asbestos. Some common types of asbestos-containing materials include insulation, ceiling and floor tiles, automotive brakes and talcum powder. Different types of asbestos could be found in these products.
The wide use of asbestos in various products has caused exposure risks among workers, consumers and the general public. Common methods of exposure to asbestos-containing materials include household exposure, occupational exposure and secondary exposure.
Do Products Still Contain Asbestos?
Many countries have banned asbestos use, though it is still allowed in certain products in the United States.
In the U.S., some products are still allowed to 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, including asbestos construction materials in buildings or asbestos parts in equipment. These past uses of asbestos continue to pose a risk.
Asbestos products are listed below with information on the items and materials, their uses and the risk posed to those exposed.
02. Building Products
Asbestos-Containing Building Products
Asbestos was often used in building products before 1980. As a result, many buildings in the U.S. were constructed with asbestos-containing materials. This puts construction workers, demolition workers and homeowners at risk of asbestos exposure.
Asbestos was used in adhesives, bonding and sealers from the 1880s through the 1980s. Products such as mastic, putty, caulk and construction tape were all often made with asbestos. The mineral added durability and heat resistance. Because asbestos was a popular additive to these products, past uses remain in thousands of older homes and buildings today.
Asbestos Cement (Transite)
Asbestos cement, or transite, is a mixture of cement and asbestos fibers used to form a variety of products. Common transite products include pipes, roofing sheets, 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. Today, individuals may experience exposure from damaged and deteriorating asbestos cement products.
Asbestos felt was used in roofing, flooring and paper mills from the early 1900s through the early 1990s. In construction, asbestos felt is used as a protective layer under flooring or roofing. At paper mills, asbestos felt was used to dry paper pulp. Papermill workers, construction workers and homeowners may have been exposed to asbestos felt. Today, felt underlayments may still be present in older homes and buildings.
Asbestos has been used in cement sheets since the early 1900s. The mineral was added to cement sheets to increase durability and temperature resistance. Asbestos cement sheets were especially popular because they were 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. However, asbestos is still used in cement sheets produced in other countries that may be imported to the U.S. Construction workers and homeowners may also come into contact with asbestos cement sheets in older homes.
Asbestos was used in several types of tiling, primarily for floors and ceilings. The mineral provided durability, strength and heat resistance. Asbestos floor tiles contained asbestos from the 1920s to the 1970s. Asbestos ceiling tiles contained asbestos fibers from the 1950s to the 1980s. However, production dates may vary based upon the manufacturer. Some homes may still contain old asbestos tiles, posing a risk to homeowners.
Various construction materials were frequently made with asbestos, such as roofing and siding. The mineral helped enhance durability and create structures that would withstand weathering, chemical erosion and fire. However, hazards occur when materials become damaged or crumble. When old buildings and homes are remodeled, renovated or demolished, asbestos fibers may release into the air.
Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems use ductwork to deliver and remove air within a space. From the 1930s to the 1980s, many HVAC components contained asbestos. Asbestos was used in ductwork connectors, tapes, sealants and other components to provide durability and temperature insulation. Asbestos is no longer used in most of these parts today, but it may still be present in older HVAC systems.
Asbestos gaskets were used in several industries, including construction, boilermaking, shipbuilding and manufacturing. These gaskets were used to create a tight seal between pipes, valves and other parts. Asbestos fibers were incorporated into gaskets for durability against heat and chemicals. Asbestos-containing gaskets were manufactured until the 1980s, but some may still be present in older vehicles and machinery.
Asbestos was used for a variety of insulating materials. Loose-fill insulation in walls, spray-on insulation and block insulation contained asbestos. Although there are regulations in place to limit the use of asbestos, the mineral can still be used in insulation today 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 coverings contained asbestos. The mineral provided durability, heat resistance and fire resistance. These asbestos-containing products were commonly used from 1945 to the early 1990s. Construction workers and homeowners may be in danger of 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 vinyl products such as floor tiles, sheet flooring and wallpaper. Asbestos was also frequently added to the adhesives and backings of these products. As a result, removing vinyl products can release asbestos fibers. Asbestos is no longer used in today’s vinyl products. However, it may still be present in older homes and buildings.
Zonolite was a widely-used brand of vermiculite insulation contaminated with asbestos. It was most commonly used to insulate attics. As a result, construction workers and homeowners may have been exposed to asbestos in Zonolite insulation. The material is no longer produced today. However, individuals may still come into contact with it in older homes and buildings.
03. Consumer Products
Consumer products manufactured in the 1900s, as well as some made today, present asbestos exposure concerns. 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 used asbestos fibers in its Kent Micronite cigarette filters. The mineral was included to filter out smoke irritants and provide a smoother smoking experience. However, consumers likely inhaled asbestos fibers during smoking. Individuals who smoked Kent Micronite cigarettes produced between 1952 and 1956 were likely exposed to asbestos.
04. Fire-Resistant Products
Fireproofing and Fire-Resistant Products
Because asbestos is a known fire retardant, it was popular for various fireproofing and fire-resistant products. Asbestos-containing fireproof products include asbestos cloth, fire blocks and fire safety gear. These materials put firefighters, construction workers and numerous other industries at risk of exposure. Some of these asbestos-containing fireproofing products are still actively produced today.
Asbestos fibers were often incorporated into textiles for use in fire-resistant clothing and blankets. Fibrous chrysotile asbestos was easy to weave into fabrics for this purpose. Firefighters, first responders and industrial workers often used fire-resistant asbestos gloves and garments in their daily work. Manufacturing of asbestos textiles was discontinued in 1990. However, 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. Asbestos and talc deposits are found near each other. Contamination of the talc may occur during mining. Individuals who use these asbestos-contaminated products may develop mesothelioma or another related disease.
Natural talc and asbestos deposits are often found near each other, which has led to contaminated talc in many consumer products. Asbestos-contaminated talc has been found in baby powder and cosmetics. Because of this dangerous contamination, thousands of consumers are taking legal action against manufacturers of talcum powder products.
Many cosmetic products contain talcum powder as an ingredient. Talc can be easily contaminated with asbestos. As a result, eye shadows, blushes and other powder-based products may contain asbestos. Recent news has raised concerns regarding the presence of asbestos in children’s makeup. Stores such as Claire’s and Justice have recalled several contaminated products.
06. Transportation & Automotive Parts
Transportation and Automotive Products
The transportation and automotive industry has incorporated asbestos into its products for years. The automotive industry used asbestos due to its ability to enhance friction for braking components. The mineral could also 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 miracle mineral, research has proven asbestos is dangerous. Exposure to asbestos products puts millions at risk of developing asbestos-related diseases, including malignant mesothelioma. Recognizing products known to contain the mineral and understanding the risks can help prevent exposure. Without a full ban on asbestos, people need to be aware of what products may contain the mineral.