Asbestos in Agricultural Filler and Other Building Materials
The term "agricultural filler" refers to waste products left over from farm production and harvesting. Agricultural filler is used for extending artificial construction materials such as polymer fillers. Agricultural filler may consist of corn husks and cobs, shells from nuts, inedible grain, hay and grass, and other plant sources. These agriculture filler materials were included in a number of commercial building products which also contained asbestos fiber as a filler material. Agricultural filler-based products include pipe lagging and furnace insulation, roofing shingles, millboard, flooring, and a number of texturing products used on walls and ceilings.
Most of the asbestos used in these products was of the "white" variety. Known to geologists as "chrysotile," white asbestos comes from a type of metamorphic rock known as serpentine because its fibers curl up into a "u" shape. Exposure to this type of asbestos may cause cancer as well as lung diseases like pleural plaques and asbestosis.
Asbestos-containing building materials that incorporate agricultural material may not be extremely hazardous if left intact and in place. However, these materials, most of which were installed before the late 1970s, can deteriorate with age. As they deteriorate, they become more brittle increasing the chances for asbestos fibers to be released into the environment. If appropriate safety equipment is not worn, these fibers can be inhaled into the lungs and, over time, cause mesothelioma as described above.
Building owners and landlords who discover such materials in their structures are required by law in most states to have them removed by a licensed asbestos abatement contractor. Private homeowners have more options; however, it is strongly recommended that such individuals do not attempt to deal with the problem on their own.
Hazards Associated with Agricultural Filler Products
The commercial and industrial use of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) began in the late 19th century and continued well into the 20th century, so the number of applications of agricultural filler products containing asbestos is extensive. Those most at risk from asbestos-contaminated agricultural filler include construction workers, insulation installers, roofers, carpenters who installed flooring and painters who applied textures to walls or ceilings.Sources
Bowker, Michael. Fatal Deception: The Untold Story of Asbestos (New York: Touchstone, 2003)