01. Asbestos Use in Insulation
Why Was Asbestos Used in Insulation?
Asbestos was used in a variety of insulation products for nearly a century. From the mid-1860s through the late 1970s, the mineral was used in many types of insulation.
Asbestos Insulation History At-a-Glance
- Other Names: Block insulation, fill insulation, loose insulation, pipe insulation, spray-on insulation
- Years of Manufacture: 1866 – 1990
- Military Use: Aircraft, military barracks, ships, shipyards
- Places Used: Attics, boilers, buildings, ceilings, factories, floors, manufacturing floors, ships, walls
- Asbestos Use Banned: No
- Noteworthy Brands: Kaylo, manufactured by Owens-Illinois, Inc.; Unibestos manufactured by Pittsburgh Corning; Zonolite manufactured by W.R. Grace
Asbestos insulation types fit into four main categories:
- Loose-fill insulation: fluffy asbestos material often used in attics or inside walls
- Block insulation: semi-rigid slabs of insulation
- Insulation wrapping: used in products such as pipes and ducts
- Spray-on asbestos insulation: used in ceilings and walls
Other types of insulation products that may contain asbestos include cement, electrical panels, plaster and certain brands of batt insulation.
The mineral was used for its durability, flame and chemical resistance. Asbestos-containing materials were also cost-effective to produce. As a result, many companies chose to include it in their products. However, asbestos exposure can lead to serious health problems, including mesothelioma.
Asbestos diseases can develop after an individual inhales or ingests the microscopic fibers. This often happens when friable (crumbly) asbestos products are disturbed. Once disturbed, the mineral may become airborne.
Asbestos Brand Spotlight
One of the most well-known asbestos insulation brands was Zonolite, which was produced with asbestos as early as the 1940s. The Zonolite Company was then acquired by W.R. Grace in 1963. The Zonolite product was vermiculite insulation, often used in residential attics. Pure vermiculite is not dangerous. However, nearly 80% of the world’s vermiculite supply came from the asbestos-contaminated Libby, Montana mine. As a result, vermiculite insulation can cause health risks due to contamination with asbestos fibers.
Zonolite has not been manufactured in decades. However, it can still be found in homes and buildings constructed before 1980. As a result, homeowners, contractors and demolition crews are still at risk of exposure from Zonolite.
In Australia, Mr. Fluffy was a well-known asbestos insulation brand. Mr. Fluffy was loose-fill insulation installed in many homes in Canberra, A.U.
From 1968 to 1979, Mr. Fluffy was installed in about 1,100 homes around Canberra. The loose-fill asbestos was blown into the attics and ceiling spaces. In the 1980s, the Australian Government notified residents of the dangers of Mr. Fluffy and conducted remediation.
However, in 2014 the government informed residents of possible residual asbestos from incomplete removal. After inspection, the government decided the safest course of action was to buy back and demolish the Mr. Fluffy-contaminated homes.
Insulation products often contained high concentrations of the mineral. For instance, some millboard products reportedly consisted of upwards of 85% asbestos. These products were used frequently in the construction of residential and commercial buildings.
Asbestos insulation has been found in businesses, factories, homes, hospitals and schools.
Asbestos insulation was not only used in construction. It was also used to line other products, such as boilers, steam pipes and valves. These industrial uses of asbestos insulation were common in factories and plants across the United States.
From the 1970s through the 1990s, U.S. federal agencies began to regulate asbestos. Notable regulations around asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) include:
- In 1973, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned spray-applied ACMs for fireproofing and insulating purposes.
- In 1975, the EPA banned the installation of asbestos pipe insulation and asbestos block insulation on facility components, such as boilers and hot water tanks.
- In 1977, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) banned asbestos in artificial fireplace embers and wall patching compounds.
- In 1978, the EPA banned spray-applied surfacing materials not covered under the 1973 ban.
- In 1990, the EPA prohibited spray-on materials containing more than 1% asbestos.
The mineral may still be present in products manufactured before these dates. Today, certain types of insulation may still contain up to 1% asbestos, according to EPA guidelines.
How Should Homeowners Handle Asbestos?
Handling asbestos products can be very dangerous. Asbestos removal should not be attempted by non-professionals. Asbestos insulation can be particularly hazardous in older homes and building materials. Homeowners may not expect to find the product and potentially mishandle it. Asbestos insulation may also be mistaken for fiberglass insulation.
If an individual suspects there may be asbestos in their home, they should contact an asbestos abatement specialist. They will conduct asbestos testing and safely remove and dispose of any materials.
Dangers of Asbestos in Insulation
Asbestos exposure can lead to the development of many related diseases. Exposure to asbestos insulation may cause any of the following illnesses:
- Asbestos cancer
- Laryngeal cancer
- Lung cancer
- Mesothelioma (pleural, peritoneal and pericardial)
- Ovarian cancer
- Pleural plaques
- Pleural thickening
A study of Irish insulators found increased mortality due to asbestos diseases. The researchers followed 162 insulators from 1940 through 1975. They found elevated mortality from mesothelioma, asbestosis and bronchial carcinoma.
Study Finds Insulators May Experience Highest Levels of Asbestos Exposure
Another study evaluated asbestos exposure among 13 occupations. Studied occupations included insulators, pipefitters and sheet metal workers. Researchers found insulators had the highest levels of asbestos exposure.
The highest levels of exposure were observed in the 1940s through the 1950s. By the 1970s, exposure began to decline with the rise of industrial hygiene practices. Around this time, agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) began to regulate asbestos use.
High asbestos exposure levels do not necessarily guarantee an asbestos disease. However, asbestos exposure is the primary cause of mesothelioma. Any level of exposure may lead to an asbestos disease, such as mesothelioma or asbestos lung cancer.
U.S. Government agencies have tried to curb asbestos exposure with regulations and standards for handling the mineral. These regulations apply to all forms of asbestos products, including insulation.
02. List of Asbestos Insulation
Asbestos Insulation Products List
Many products produced before 1980 contained asbestos. Asbestos products were used across several industries, including construction, metalworking and shipbuilding. Asbestos insulation was used in many industries that included manufacturing or high temperatures.
Click on any of the asbestos insulation products below to see a list of brands and manufacturers.
- Asbestos canvas
- Asbestos rope
- Asbestos sheets
- Asbestos spray
- Asbestos wool
- Attic insulation
- Block insulation
- Calcium silicate
- Cork covering
- Pipe insulation
- Sheet packing
- Silicate calsilite
- Sponge block
A wide range of manufacturers included asbestos in their insulation materials. These manufacturers often sold products to other asbestos companies to distribute and install. Companies also acquired and sold brands, which complicates tracking the responsible manufacturer.
Below is a list of companies known to have produced, sold or installed asbestos insulation products.
Companies That Used Asbestos Insulation
- AC&S (ACandS)
- Amatex Corporation
- Armstrong Contracting and Supply
- Celotex Corporation
- Combustion Engineering
- Crown Cork & Seal Company
- Eagle Picher
- Flintkote Company
- GAF Corporation
- Garlock Sealing Technologies
- H.K. Porter (a brand from Apex Tool Group)
- Kaiser Gypsum Company, Inc.
- Keene Corporation
- Melrath Gasket, Inc.
- Metalclad Insulation Corporation
- National Gypsum Company
- New England Insulation
- Nicolet/Keasbey & Mattison
- Owens-Corning Fiberglas
- Pittsburgh Corning (UNARCO Industries)
- Raybestos/Raymark Industries, Inc.
- Turner & Newall
- USG Company (United States Gypsum Company)
- W.R. Grace
Asbestos companies were often aware of the risks of asbestos exposure but chose not to protect their employees. As a result, companies exposed thousands of workers and consumers to asbestos-containing materials. Asbestos exposure can lead to life-threatening diseases, such as mesothelioma.
03. Insulation & Asbestos Exposure
Who Is at Risk of Asbestos Exposure From Insulation?
Asbestos insulation exposed thousands of workers, consumers and bystanders to the harmful mineral. Some occupations were in almost constant contact with asbestos products at work. These workers are more likely to develop diseases such as mesothelioma.
Other occupations only encountered asbestos occasionally. However, any amount of asbestos exposure can be dangerous.
Occupations at Risk of Exposure From Asbestos Insulation
- Construction workers
- Demolition crews
- Drywall tapers
- Equipment operators
- Factory workers
- HVAC workers
- Industrial workers
- Machine operators
- Shipyard workers
- Steel workers
Occupational exposure is one of the most common ways to come into contact with asbestos. However, secondhand exposure can be just as dangerous. This can happen when asbestos fibers settle on the clothing of asbestos workers. The fibers may later be disturbed by family members and loved ones. Secondary exposure can still cause mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases.
04. Asbestos Lawsuits
Asbestos Lawsuits, Settlements & Other Compensation
Compensation may come from a trust fund claim, lawsuit or settlement.
Notable asbestos insulation companies with trust funds include:
- Celotex Corporation: Celotex Asbestos Settlement Trust
- Combustion Engineering: Combustion Engineering 524(g) Asbestos Personal Injury Trust
- Garlock Sealing Technologies: GST (Garlock Sealing Technologies) Settlement Facility
- Johns-Manville Corporation: Manville Personal Injury Settlement Trust
- W.R. Grace: WRG Asbestos PI Trust
Claimants can file directly with these trusts to receive compensation. An asbestos lawyer can help individuals gather the necessary information for their claims. There is more than $30 billion set aside in various asbestos trusts.
Insulation Case Set Precedent for Future Asbestos Litigation
One of the first successful asbestos insulation cases involved a man named Clarence Borel.
Borel was exposed to asbestos throughout his 30-year career as an industrial insulation worker. From 1936 to 1969, Borel was in contact with asbestos insulation daily.
He was not required to wear a respirator or any personal protective equipment (PPE).
In his deposition, Borel testified he often inhaled asbestos dust from insulation. However, he did not know how dangerous the dust was.
“Yes, I knew the dust was bad, but we used to talk (about) it among the insulators, (about) how bad was this dust, could it give you TB, could it give you this, and everyone was saying no, that dust don’t hurt you, it dissolves as it hits your lungs.”
As a result of asbestos exposure, Borel developed asbestosis and mesothelioma. In 1969, he filed a case against 11 asbestos companies. Four defendants settled out of court, and those remaining continued to trial.
The remaining plaintiffs were:
- Armstrong Cork Corporation
- Fibreboard Paper Products Corporation
- Johns-Manville Corporation
- Pittsburgh Corning Corporation
- Philip Carey Corporation
- Ruberoid Corporation, a Division of GAF Corporation
Borel died before the case concluded and his wife was substituted as the plaintiff. All defendants were found liable. The jury awarded Mrs. Borel $79,436.24.
The American Museum of Tort Law considers Borel’s case an important landmark in asbestos litigation.
– American Museum of Tort Law
Examples of Compensation Following Exposure to Asbestos Insulation
Lawsuits are one avenue mesothelioma patients can seek compensation. Notable asbestos insulation-related lawsuit verdicts include:
- In September 2020, a California jury awarded a plaintiff $2.6 million. The plaintiff was a retired Navy veteran. He developed mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos insulation during service. He was exposed to insulation manufactured by Metalclad Insulation Corporation.
- In October 2018, a North Carolina jury awarded one of the largest verdict amounts for an asbestos insulation case. The jury awarded the family of an asbestos victim $32.7 million. The victim died of mesothelioma resulting from workplace exposure to asbestos insulation. He worked in a tire plant, where he was exposed to asbestos pipe insulation installed by Covil Corporation. Though Covil tried to appeal the verdict, it was affirmed by several federal appellate courts.
- In September 2017, a Massachusetts jury awarded a former power plant worker $7.55 million. From 1968 to 1976, the plaintiff worked as an equipment operator at a New Hampshire plant. During his work, the plaintiff was exposed to Kaylo brand insulation produced by Owens-Corning Fiberglas. The insulation was installed by New England Insulation, the defendants in the case. The plaintiff’s workplace exposure led him to develop mesothelioma. The jury ordered New England Insulation to pay the man damages for his exposure and disease.
Experienced mesothelioma lawyers can help mesothelioma patients and other asbestos victims receive compensation. Lawyers will assist plaintiffs with choosing their best option for compensation.