Asbestos Insulation Why Is It Dangerous

Kevin Brown

Asbestos insulation refers to the practice of using asbestos as a material for insulation purposes. This practice was widely employed before the dangers of asbestos became well-known. In recent years, the harmful effects of asbestos exposure have been widely publicized, resulting in strict regulations and guidelines regarding its use.

It is crucial to understand the dangers associated with asbestos insulation. When asbestos is disturbed, such as during construction or renovation work, it releases harmful fibers into the air. These fibers can be inhaled, leading to serious health issues.

In fact, asbestos exposure is known to cause a range of diseases, including lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.

The nature of asbestos makes it particularly dangerous. Its microscopic fibers are incredibly durable and can remain suspended in the air for extended periods of time. This makes it likely for individuals in the vicinity to inhale the fibers without even realizing it.

Furthermore, the development of asbestos-related diseases can take many years, often presenting themselves decades after the initial exposure.

Given the risks associated with asbestos insulation, it is essential to take the necessary precautions when dealing with asbestos-containing materials. This includes ensuring that any asbestos insulation is properly identified and handled by professionals trained in asbestos removal. Additionally, individuals working in industries that may involve asbestos exposure should be educated on the risks and provided with appropriate protective equipment.

In conclusion, asbestos insulation poses significant dangers to human health. It is crucial to raise awareness about these dangers and take appropriate measures to protect individuals from asbestos exposure. By doing so, we can ensure the safety and well-being of workers and the general public.

Asbestos Insulation Why Is It Dangerous

Asbestos insulation contains tiny, needle-like fibers that are easy to inhale. The lungs can’t expel these fibers, which can cause various cancers and respiratory diseases. Asbestos insulation is linked to asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma, ovarian cancer, and laryngeal cancer, among other health issues.

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But don’t panic just yet—remember that asbestos is most dangerous when disturbed. If undisturbed, the fibers don’t float in the air and pose a lower risk of disease.

Asbestos Insulation Why Is It Dangerous

Asbestos is a silicate mineral with long thin fibers that are released into the atmosphere through abrasion and other processes. These fibers can be turned into a cotton-like material that is easily mixed with other materials. Asbestos is known for its thermal insulation and electrical insulation properties, as well as its fire-resistance. It is commonly used in building construction in developing countries.

In 2020, Russia, the largest producer of asbestos, mined approximately 790,000 tons.

Asbestos has been used for thousands of years to create heat-resistant and non-combustible products. Industrial-scale mining began in the 1870s, expanding the use of asbestos in various applications such as boilers, cement pipe, automotive components (brake pads, clutches, transmission parts), electric motor components, heat protective pads, and paper products. However, restrictions have been implemented to reduce the presence of asbestos in products. Nowadays, all asbestos-containing products are imported, including automobile clutches, brake pads, corrugated sheathing, cement pipe, roofing materials, and vinyl tile.

Let’s explore the uses and types of asbestos insulation further.

During most of the 20th century, insulation products contained asbestos. Almost every house built before 1975 has asbestos. It was even used to manufacture blankets for hospitals.

The construction industry used asbestos for wall and attic insulation from about 1919 – 1990. Vermiculite, a lightweight, fire-resistant material, provided R-2.0 per inch.

Additionally, asbestos was used in the manufacture of drywall, drywall mud, and siding. By the end of the 19th century, construction uses included fireproof coatings, pipe insulation, concrete, bricks, fireplace cement, ceiling insulation, flooring, and roofing. Despite a years-old ban, over 50% of British homes still contained asbestos in 2011.

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Spray-on asbestos insulation was also a common practice.

Spray-on insulation is used on ceilings, walls, and beams to create a fireproof insulating blanket. It is quick and inexpensive and can often be seen on commercial building and factory ceilings as a thick gray coating.

Before 1990, many of these coatings contained up to 85% asbestos. Since 1990, spray-on insulation containing more than 1% asbestos must use binders during spraying to encapsulate the fibers.

Loose-fill insulation is similar to cellulose blown-in, fiberglass blown-in, or mineral wool blown-in insulation. It is blown loose into attics and wall cavities and resembles white fiberglass.

Asbestos rigid board insulation is another type of asbestos insulation commonly used.

Asbestos Insulation Boards (AIB) were glued to concrete walls for basement insulation as ceiling tiles, soffits, and partition walls. Made from almost pure asbestos, these boards resemble expanded polystyrene. Asbestos rigid insulation provides approximately R-2.0 per inch.

Contractors have wrapped HVAC pipes, ducting, and some plumbing pipes in asbestos insulation for decades–in houses, commercial buildings, and Navy ships. Before 1980, pipes were wrapped with asbestos-based air cell insulation–a type of cardboard made from asbestos paper. Other pipe insulation, known as asbestos wool insulation–resembling fiberglass pipe wrap–was also used.

What to Do If You Have Asbestos Insulation

Asbestos crumbles, releasing microscopic fibers that can be breathed into the lungs. Asbestos insulation is usually stable, and the fibers will stay with the product if undisturbed. Renovating houses with asbestos is a primary source of airborne fibers that can be inhaled or ingested.

You can determine if you have asbestos insulation with a professional inspection or at-home test. If you have asbestos, consult a professional abatement company for guidance. However, if the asbestos insulation in your attic will remain undisturbed, no further action may be necessary.

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For renovations or peace of mind, hire an EPA-certified asbestos removal company.

Over 55 countries worldwide have banned asbestos use, including the European Union, Japan, Australia, and several African and South American countries. However, countries like Canada, China, the United States, India, and Russia have not complied with the ban. It is alarming that asbestos kills about 15,000 Americans annually, while the country continues to import over 8 million lbs. of it each year.

Before 1990, vermiculite containing asbestos was mined in Libby, Montana, and used as insulation and in potting soil in numerous homes across the United States.

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