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Flexboard

Asbestos in Flexboard and Other Building Materials

Flexboard (also known as flex board) is a building material that can be used in place of plywood when a curved surface is desired. Like plywood, it is made from timber, but is specially engineered for flexibility. Once installed, it can accept any number of surfacing materials and textures. It is slightly more expensive than plywood, but because there is less waste, it is often more cost-effective.

Prior to the 1980s flexboard, like many building construction materials, contained asbestos. This was seen as desirable at a time when building fires were a common hazard. While asbestos possessed many desirable qualities it was also a very dangerous substance; inhaling the fibers increased the risk of incurring serious respiratory illnesses such as asbestosis (scarring of the internal surfaces of the lungs) and cancer, including mesothelioma.

The most common type of asbestos used in flexboard and other construction materials was known as chrysotile, or "white" asbestos. This is a relatively soft variety, resembling wool, and is still mined commercially in Thetford, Quebec. Such asbestos was mined in the U.S., primarily in northwestern Montana, but domestic asbestos production ceased in the 1990s.

According to official estimates, there may be as many as three-quarter million structures across the nation containing substantial amounts of asbestos flexboard and other materials. Homes build prior to 1980 that have curved walls, ceilings or other surfaces and have not been extensively renovated are likely to contain this material. If the material is in good condition, it is probably best to leave it undisturbed. However, if it is damaged, the home or building owner should contact a licensed asbestos abatement firm and have the material removed as soon as possible.

Flexboard Products Containing Asbestos

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

Product Name Start Year End Year
Celotex Carey Flex Board 1925 1964
Johns Manville Flexboard 1927 1983

Hazards Associated with Flexboard Products

Workers in building material factories were exposed to asbestos fibers to a considerable extent when producing flexboard, as the manufacturing process required the use of raw asbestos fibers. Construction workers who installed flexboard may have been exposed to asbestos if they were required to cut or trim the flexboard during the installation process. Flexboard, if left intact, is relatively safe. If the material needs to be cut or becomes worn or damaged, individual asbestos fibers can enter the air where they can be easily inhaled by those in the vicinity.

Sources

Sources

Bowker, Michael. Fatal Deception: The Untold Story of Asbestos (New York: Touchstone, 2003)
N/A. "Flexboard." (http://www.kerfkore.com/index_files/Page2522.htm). Retrieved 2 January 2011.

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