Asbestos has been used by man for more than 4 millennia. However, it was only in the 19th century when large-scale mining and mass production of asbestos products reached its peak. The many useful properties of asbestos primarily in the building and construction industry has seen the production of every conceivable building and construction material from roofing to walling to electrical insulation and packaging to sealants and adhesives. You can say that many of the infrastructure in the 19th and the earlier parts of the 20th century are made primarily of asbestos and/or asbestos-containing products.
The prevalent use of asbestos has clearly made its elimination from the building and construction and manufacturing industries quite a challenge. This is especially true among countries in the developing world where asbestos is still pretty much used in the manufacture of a variety of home use products as well as building and construction materials.
Unfortunately, the United States has not completely banned the use of asbestos although a limit has been set in each of the manufacturing processes where asbestos is involved. Although the Environmental Protection Agency did issue in 1989 the Asbestos Ban and Phase Out Rule, it saw strong opposition from asbestos sympathizers. Current federal regulations require all newly-produced or manufactured products should not contain more than 1 percent of asbestos. The legal limit for asbestos fibers per cubic meter of workplace air is 100,000 fibers, as set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The limit is for an 8-hour work shifts on a 40-hour work week basis.
Here’s the sad part. There are so many products in the market today that still contain asbestos, especially in old buildings. Additionally, because of limitations in the legal framework in the country, being one of the few developed countries to not completely ban asbestos, Americans continue to be exposed to asbestos and run the risk of developing mesothelioma and asbestos lung cancer as well as the more common asbestosis.
Here is a list of the most common products that have been shown to contain asbestos.
- Adhesives, Cements, Mortar, and Sealers – These products are primarily used for bonding two different surfaces and can include all types of adhesive products including welding rods, duct adhesives, fibrous adhesives, and bonding cement. These can also include all types of cement products such as joint cement, masonry cement, plastic cement, furnace cement, topping cement, insulating cement, and finishing cement. It also includes caulking, mastics, mortar, and sealers.
- Asbestos Paper including Rollboard and Millboard – Certain paper materials and cardboards can also contain asbestos. These can include asbestos paper, Permaboard, corrugate paper, rollboard, Flexboard, vinyl wallpaper, and millboard.
- Automotive Parts and Brake Systems – Asbestos is extensively used in the automotive industry particularly in the manufacture of brakes and its associated components like brake linings, disk brakes, brake pads, drum brakes, and elevator brake shoes. Clutch linings and transmission plates are also manufactured with asbestos composition.
- Cement Pipes and Boards, Sheets, and Plastics – Certain materials like asbestos boards, plastics, asbestos sheets, stone sheathing, and cement pipes have also been shown to contain asbestos.
- Compounds, Clay, Plasters, and Paints – Products that are often used as plasticizers have been shown to contain asbestos. These include acoustical plaster, paints, asphalt, patching, plasters, fillers, putty, finish, spackling compounds, joint compounds, and other types of compound.
- Electrical and Mechanical Products – Workers in manufacturing facilities of electrical and mechanical products have also been shown to be especially vulnerable to asbestos. These include boilers, pumps, cables and wires, turbines, electric boards, valves and valve rings, furnaces, generators, weatherproofing jackets, heating ducts, and wiring insulation.
- Flooring Materials and Tiles – The materials used on your floor are also made of asbestos. These include ceiling tiles, floor tiles, vinyl floors, wall tiles, and other flooring materials.
- Gaskets, Packing, and Packing Materials – Some packing products are also asbestos-containing. These include packing materials, braided packing, rope packing, gaskets, sheet packing, and gasketing materials.
- Home Use Products – Ordinary household products such as hair dryers, iron rests, baby powder, ironing board covers, fume hoods, and stove mats have been shown to contain asbestos. Cigarette filters, laboratory hoods, crock pots, popcorn poppers, fertilizer, potting mixtures, agricultural fillers, and attic insulation all contain asbestos.
- Panels, Wall Boards, and Wall Coverings – Wall panels, wallboards, acoustical panels, marine panels, and sheetrock all contain asbestos.
- Pipe Coverings and Blocks – Insulating materials like pipe insulation, duct insulation, block insulation, preformed pipe wrap, and tank jackets have been shown to contain asbestos. Calcium silicate, sponge block, and magnesia also contain asbestos.
- Protective Clothing – Certain garments that are supposed to protect the wearer from various hazards may invariably contain asbestos. These can include aprons, gloves, sleeves, leggings, dust masks, asbestos helmet, mitts and mittens, textile garments, laboratory gloves, glassblower mitts, and even respirators.
- Protective Coatings and Fireproofing – Fireproofing materials have been shown to contain asbestos. These include asbestos curtains and spray, fireproofing cement and materials, boiler coating, insulation jacketing, fire blankets, fire dampers and doors, textured coating, and weather coating.
- Raw Asbestos Fiber – People working with raw asbestos have the highest risk of developing asbestosis, mesothelioma, and/or asbestos lung cancer. These include asbestos fiber, talc powder, fake snow, transite, raw asbestos, vermiculite, and silicate calsilite.
- Refractory Products – Products designed to resist high temperatures like castables, refractory cements and products, firebricks, and marinite have also been shown to contain asbestos.
- Roofing Materials, Sidings, and Shingles – The various materials you use on your roof also contain asbestos such as felt and shingles, cement siding, stucco, roof coating, flashing, and tar paper.
- Ropes, Cords, Corks, Tapes, and Wicks –These products can be found in a lot of items and can include asbestos cord and rope, sheet rope, tapes, cork covering, and wicking.
- Textiles, Cloth, and Felts – There are certain textiles that have been made of asbestos including blankets, canvas, cloth, lap, wool, yarn, and felt. Also included are textiles, roving, and lagging.
Asbestos is virtually everywhere. This makes its associated health conditions a real concern not only among healthcare professionals but also anyone who is exposed to the chemical. And by anyone is meant everyone.