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There has been much concern around the presence of asbestos in construction materials. Roofing, ceiling tiles, floor tiles, insulation and other building materials have been known to contain asbestos for durability and fireproofing purposes. 

These products have been prevalent in homes, schools, office buildings, pipe systems and other areas that the public is in frequent contact with, putting them at risk of asbestos exposure.


Asbestos and Construction Materials

Asbestos has been used in building materials in the United States for years, mainly due to its strength, durability and ability to withstand high temperatures. These qualities are ideal for roofing, siding and piping to provide insulation, fire protection and strength against weathering. Homes and buildings constructed between the 1900s through the 1970s are most at risk, with everything from cables and wallpaper to adhesives and flooring found to contain asbestos.

With a push towards a full asbestos ban and more asbestos regulations on consumer products, less and less products contain the carcinogen, though many are still being found. Some roofing products, like asbestos cement roofing, have a life expectancy of 30 – 50 years, so it is likely that asbestos hazards still exist with roof structures that are in place today.

Regulations have been put into place by organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to prevent harmful production and interaction with asbestos products, though issues continue to arise. For example, a recent study disproved a claim that roof cement properly encapsulates asbestos fibers and poses no risk of exposure. The study confirmed weathered roofing can indeed release the carcinogen.

Construction Materials and Asbestos Exposure Concerns

The main concern with construction materials is disturbance. Home renovations, tearing down buildings or crumbling structures can disturb asbestos fibers, making them airborne and putting everyone in the area at risk, from homeowners remodeling an old home to students in classrooms with crumbling ceiling tiles.

In terms of occupational exposure, there are some that are at higher risk for exposure due to contact with construction materials.

At-Risk Occupations
  • Carpenters
  • Construction workers
  • Demolition crews
  • Electricians
  • Flooring installers
  • HVAC workers
  • Home inspectors
  • Household appliance installers
  • Insulators
  • Painters
  • Plumbers
  • Roofers

Those in high-risk occupations must be aware of the risks of asbestos exposure, particularly when disturbing old building materials to help prevent against asbestos-related diseases, including malignant mesothelioma.

Undisturbed, asbestos-containing products may not pose a large risk. However, even natural disasters could unexpectedly disturb the material and cause contamination. High-risk occupations should ensure all workplace asbestos regulations are met, and workers should take caution when addressing potential asbestos-containing materials. Similar precautions apply to homeowners, especially when renovating and remodeling older homes.

If you suspect the presence of asbestos or asbestos-containing materials, it’s important to contact a certified professional, and if asbestos is present, proper abatement is necessary to ensure safe handling and disposal.

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