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Cork Covering

Asbestos in Cork Covering Products and Other Building Materials

Cork is an organic substance that is harvested from a single species of oak. Known to botanists as quercus suber and more popularly as the "cork oak," this tree is native to the eastern Mediterranean and grows nowhere else. Approximately half of the world's cork is produced in Portugal by a company named Corticeira Amorim.

Aside from its traditional use as a bottle stopper, the unique properties of this wood product make it an ideal construction material. Cork is lightweight, water-resistant and makes an excellent insulating material. Cork is sometimes mixed into cement products to enhance its ability to absorb energy. At least one company produces floor tiles made from varnished sheets of cork, and of course this material has long been favored for bulletin boards.

Asbestos-containing cork materials were most likely to have been used to insulate steam pipes and heating conduits. Cork flooring, ceiling tiles and wall paneling manufactured prior to the 1980s was also likely to contain asbestos fiber in order to provide fire resistance and durability. One company known to have manufactured asbestos cork paneling and other products was Armstrong, which marketed this material under the brand name LT Cork Covering®.

Cork Covering Products Containing Asbestos

The following partial list of cork covering products were known to contain asbestos:

Product Name Start Year End Year
Armstrong LT - Cork Covering 1956 1960
Armstrong LT - Minus Thirty Cork Covering 1956 1960
Armstrong LT - Thirty Cork Covering 1956 1960
Armstrong LT - Zero Cork Covering 1956 1960
Congoleum Firechek Bulletin Board Cork 1962
Crown Cork and Seal Mundetcork 1958 1963

Hazards Associated with Cork Products

Insulation workers who handled asbestos cork materials are at the highest risk for developing asbestos diseases. These diseases, particularly asbestos cancer, have a very long latency period; susceptible individuals who suffered exposure as long as forty years ago may only now be starting to show symptoms. For this reason, it is important to have frequent health monitoring, as asbestos cancer is most treatable in the earliest stages. In addition to installers, demolition workers and maintenance personnel working on older cork insulation in buildings are at a serious risk of asbestos inhalation, particularly as the cork insulation is not widely known as a source of asbestos contamination.

Sources

Sources

Bowker, Michael. Fatal Deception: The Untold Story of Asbestos (New York: Touchstone, 2003)

N/A. "Cork Flooring." Cork Flooring Pros
(http://www.corkflooringpros.com/). Accessed 19 January 2011.

N/A. "Natural Cork Production."
(http://www.corkfacts.com/natlcrk11.htm) Accessed 19 January 2011.

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