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Asbestos Use in Mortar

Asbestos in Mortar

Mortar is essentially the "glue" used to bind bricks, concrete blocks and stone together when these materials are used for wall construction. Mortar may also be used for repairs and for cosmetic purposes to fill gaps in construction when building materials are not uniform in size or shape.

Historically made from a simple mixture of mud and clay, concrete mortar first appeared during the Greco-Roman period. Today, there are several different varieties of mortar, including cement mortar, polymer, and lime mortar. During the first half of the 20th century, asbestos mortar was a common building material. The asbestos mixture consisted of four parts amphibole asbestos with one part chrysotile; the fibers were ground into a powder and sifted into the mix. Coarse fibers were used for the actual laying process, while finer material was used for surface plastering. This created a surface that was both fire-resistant and waterproof, providing the same tensile strength as concrete but with half the weight.

The use of asbestos in building material has been phased out in most countries since the early 1980s. However, there are in excess of 750,000 public buildings in the U.S. alone (and countless older homes) that still have substantial amounts of asbestos-containing materials, including asbestos mortar. It is for this reason that masons, bricklayers, demolition workers and renovation specialists are at especially high risk for asbestos disease.

Hazards Associated with Asbestos Mortar Products

Asbestos fibers pose no risk to human beings unless they are inhaled or ingested. Once that occurs, however, their effects are very harmful and irreversible. When fibers enter the body, they lodge in soft tissues such as the mesothelium, a thin layer of cells that protects and enfolds the heart, lung, and abdominal cavities. There they come under attack by the immune system, which correctly identifies them as a harmful foreign body. The immune system cannot dislodge the fibers, however, and over time the repeated immune system response leads to scarring and tumor formation. These tumors in turn can develop into asbestosis, pleural mesothelioma (affecting the lungs), and peritoneal mesothelioma (affecting the abdominal cavity).

Learn More about Compensation for Asbestos-Related Injury

Nearly every case of mesothelioma has its origin in asbestos exposure; mesothelioma does not develop in the absence of such exposures. The manufacturers of asbestos-bearing products such as asbestos mortar were aware of the health risks posed by asbestos, but chose to continue selling their products until required to stop by the government. If you or someone you know has developed mesothelioma or other asbestos-related conditions, you have legal as well as medical options. Mesothelioma has a poor survival rate but palliative care can improve the quality of life of mesothelioma sufferers. We have created an information packet with extensive information on the legal recourses and medical options available to you. Simply fill in the form on this page, and we will rush your mesothelioma information packet to you, absolutely free of charge.

Sources

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

Henley, Norman W. et. al. Henley's Twentieth Century Formulas, Recipes and Processes. (New York: The Norman W. Henley Publishing Co., 1916)

N/A. "What Is Mortar?" WiseGeek
http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-mortar.htm Retrieved 08 December 2010.

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