Asbestos in Finishing Cement and Other Building Materials
Finishing cement is used to provide a smooth, attractive surface for a concrete floor. Like concrete, finishing cement contains sand and limestone; it also often contains pigments that are used to create faux-finishes that resemble hardwood, cobblestone or any other type of floor.
Starting around the year 1900, cement companies began adding asbestos fiber to the mix. Although flexible and relatively soft to the touch, asbestos is actually a type of mineral. Like rock, asbestos is incredibly strong and durable; it was believed that the addition of asbestos to finishing cement would help the surface to stand up more solidly under years of traffic.
The health dangers of asbestos exposure were well known to the medical community as well as to the asbestos industry itself by the 1930s. It was information that the CEOs of corporations such as Johns-Manville, W.R. Grace, Owens-Corning, Kaiser Aluminum and others kept tightly under wraps for over forty years; even the secondary asbestos industries, such as cement manufacturers, were unaware of the dangers to their employees and/or did not take warnings seriously.
Finishing Cement Products Containing Asbestos
The following partial list of finishing cement products were known to contain asbestos:
|Product Name||Start Year||End Year|
|Celotex Careytemp Finishing Cement||1941||1968|
|Combustion Engineering MHD Finishing Cement||1964||1968|
|Combustion Engineering Utility Thermal Finish Cement||1964||1972|
|Eagle-Pitcher "43" Finishing Cement||1944||1972|
|Eagle-Pitcher 106 Finishing Cement||1948||1962|
|Eagle-Pitcher 99 Finishing Cement||1935||1962|
|Eagle-Pitcher Hylo Finishing Cement||1963||1971|
|GAF Grade HF (Hard Finish) Cement|
|GAF Satin Finish Cement|
|Johns Manville Finishing Cement|
|Kaiser Aluminum Hard-Top Insulating & Finishing Cement||1964||1972|
|Keasbey & Mattison Amblerex Finishing Cement|
|Keene Mundet Mineral Wool Finishing Cement|
|M.H. Detrick MDH Finishing Cement||1947||1964|
|Nicolet Finishing Cement|
|Owens-Corning Fiberglass Finishing Cement||1962||1964|
Hazards Associated with Finishing Cement Products
Once it had set, asbestos finishing cement posed few hazards to the general public unless it was damaged. The main health hazard was to cement workers, who had to mix the substance using dry materials. It was during this process that millions of asbestos fibers were released into the local environment. These fibers could literally float in the air for months on end, and were inhaled by workers in these cement plants day after day.
The use of asbestos in finishing cement was largely phased out in the 1980s. Demolition and renovation workers should be aware that asbestos finishing cement still exists in many older structures, and the fibers can pose a serious health risk when the concrete is broken up.Sources
Bowker, Michael. Fatal Deception: The Untold Story of Asbestos (New York: Touchstone, 2003)