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Asbestos Furnaces

Asbestos was commonly used in linings, gaskets and insulation for furnaces and furnace products, primarily for its flame-resistant characteristics. Furnace doors and heating ducts were the most likely locations of such insulation. Household and building furnaces, industrial furnaces (such as those used in metal casting and smelting operations), and even kilns used to fire clay artwork contained asbestos materials.

Although fourteen varieties of asbestiform minerals are known to geologists, only three were exploited for commercial purposes. The most common type was chrysotile ("white"), which was mined in northwestern Montana and New England as well as Quebec, Russia and China (it is still produced in the latter three locations). This made up about 97% of all commercial asbestos, and was the most likely to have been used for furnace linings and insulation.

Furnaces Products Containing Asbestos

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

Product Name Start Year End Year
General Electric Furnaces

Hazards Associated with Furnace Products

The asbestos used in furnaces was a health hazard to anyone working on or around them, as the fibers often became friable over time. In this case, they were released into the air and could remain suspended into local environments for months or even years.

Furnaces tend to have long service lives, and this longevity could contribute to asbestos exposure in their owners and in people working on or around them. The longer asbestos material undergoes stress, whether from high temperatures, corrosion, or simply from day to day use, the more likely the material is to become friable. Household furnaces in particular were likely to go for long periods without the replacement or repair of damaged asbestos-based components like linings and gaskets.

The highest risk of asbestos exposure, however, was most likely borne by individuals who conducted maintenance and repair work on furnaces in both industrial and residential settings. These individuals would patch insulation, remove worn gaskets, and otherwise interact directly with the damaged asbestos components which increased the likelihood of breathing in dangerous asbestos fibers. Because the risks of asbestos were not well understood for many years, these workers often conducted their duties without any effective respiratory protection. Today, many are at risk of developing mesothelioma or other respiratory diseases.



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

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