It is mainly used in industrial materials for building purposes like insulation and certain automotive parts, however, it may be hidden in some everyday products. In recent years, regulations have been put in place for those who must work with materials that are made with asbestos. Despite these regulations, not everything has been banned.
Today it remains a staple material in several industries due to its wide availability and inexpensive nature. So where might asbestos be lurking that you aren’t aware of?
What Materials Contain Asbestos?
U.S businesses throughout history have utilized asbestos as a material for industrial means and construction. Though they are far more regulated now in the United States, they are still used heavily in other parts of the world like Mexico, China, Russia, and India.
- Building Materials: Wall paneling, tile adhesive, sealant, roofing materials, cement, drywall, vinyl flooring, floor tiles, repair fill, insulation, shingles.
- Manufacturing: Appliances, car parts, firefighting gear, duct tape, machinery components, cookware.
- Products Made With Talc: Baby powder, certain cosmetics.
- General Products: Potholders and other cooking appliances, Christmas decorations.
- Lab Equipment: Fume hoods, insulation, tools, and protective gear.
Why Are Asbestos-Containing Products Popular?
After the Industrial Revolution, there was a greater demand for insulation materials and asbestos was becoming easier to access and utilize. It was cheaper to combine asbestos with other materials so that they could stretch the more expensive materials. It was added to them because it was easy to source and inexpensive to produce more of. This makes manufacturing and building projects cheaper to do in the long run.
Attributes of Asbestos
- Plentiful: It is naturally occurring and can be found all over the world in abundance. It can be found in natural elements that exist just bout anywhere. The particles are also easy to spread around and nearly impossible to destroy so they can be transported easily. Asbestos is also incredibly inexpensive due to its abundance, so plenty of manufacturers choose it over other materials simply because it is easier and cheaper to get their hands on.
- Fibrous: Almost cotton-like, it can be pulled apart into fibers and then worked into other materials. Its fibrous nature makes it easy to pair with other things to make into a variety of products. This is also what makes it so easy to enter the body. The fibers can be easily inhaled and they get lodged in the soft tissue inside of the body, causing irritation and inflammation which lead to damage.
- Resistant: Asbestos is incredibly resistant and nearly impossible to destroy. It is heat resistant, doesn’t react with electricity, and cannot be corroded. It cannot be removed from the body either once it has been inhaled or ingested. It stays stuck to different parts of your insides and when more join them they can accumulate, which is what leads to illness. This also means they are resistant to many different forms of treatment, which is why as of yet there is no cure-all treatment.
- Carcinogenic: The body cannot break down asbestos particles once they have entered it. These fibers when accumulated in the body can irritate and lead to diseases and cancers like mesothelioma, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, and more. Your chances of contracting one of these diseases are heightened if you are an avid smoker as well. Cigarettes are classified as a carcinogen also, so with two carcinogens entering the body at a regular or semi-regular rate, your chances of contracting mesothelioma or lung cancer are greatly heightened.
As asbestos became a more prominent building and manufacturing material, mines were booming to keep up with the demand for it. Being such an inexpensive material, many businesses were finding new and creative ways to use it. That meant it cropped up in all sorts of building and insulation materials and products.
As shipbuilding became a prominent need for the war effort in the twentieth century and that led to many builders and soldiers being exposed to asbestos for prolonged periods. This led to the development of asbestos-related illnesses in these groups after years of exposure.
Common Asbestos Products
It is still used in quite a few common materials that may be in your workplace or home. It is still mainly found in construction work and automotive products so it isn’t completely unlikely you’d come across it.
While it hasn’t been largely banned, there are still remnants of older uses for asbestos as well that are present in office buildings, homes, and factories. These sources for asbestos have been left for years without being destroyed, and if they are lasting structures they aren’t likely to be taken down or apart anytime soon.
There are a lot of brake pads that are made with asbestos products. So many, that automotive service providers are warned to assume that certain car parts may contain asbestos and to proceed with caution. It is important that those who are working on car parts that may have asbestos in or around them, follow a few simple guidelines on how to handle the repair as needed and minimize contact.
If you are cleaning the brake pads it is important to wear a facial covering so none of the particles can get lodged in the throat or nasal cavity. You’ll want to either use a dry or damp rag, a misting spray, or a small vacuum to clear away any pesky particles that are still lingering.
The sealant typically used to affix flooring or ceiling tiles has been rife with asbestos for a long time. It was a cheap and easy to access material that was used to stretch out the building budget so they could make plenty without spending too much on materials. Not to mention the tiles themselves were made with asbestos products to help drive down the costs as well.
This is why “popcorn” ceilings and textured ceilings have been a source of exposure for quite some time. The sprays and sealants used to texture them have contained the compound and have led to detrimental health issues after prolonged exposure.
You won’t find your everyday work clothes are made up of asbestos woven in with the other fibers. Asbestos was used most commonly in textiles that were supposed to be used as protective gear. Things like fire blankets, firefighting suits, and ropes, were all designed with asbestos because it is a heat resister and cannot be destroyed by corrosive things either.
Asbestos is a stronger fiber than most people would assume, making it ideal for projects that require certain durability. It is also heat-resistant and light so while the object might be strong, it won’t struggle with being too heavy to utilize.
Asbestos was ideal for these projects as it provides strength and durability for an inexpensive price. Unfortunately, that low price point monetarily comes with a high price point in safety. Just touching, wearing, cleaning, and even simply breathing around these products without proper equipment puts you at risk for related issues. If you believe you’ve been in prolonged contact with asbestos-containing products, you should contact your doctor as soon as possible to see what can be done for you.
Are These Products Banned?
When the risks of using asbestos started cropping up, American manufacturers realized they would have to make a change. So in the mid-1980s, the use of asbestos in products was largely halted, and by 2002 the mining of asbestos was no longer taking place.
This is not a new problem either. Since the later part of the 1800s, doctors have seen cases of lung problems that were caused by exposure to asbestos. Because it was so good for businesses and manufacturing, large corporations were able to hush up the medical research on the negative effects of asbestos until the 1960s. This was when mesothelioma was finally linked to asbestos exposure and there was no longer any hiding the truth.
This then led the U.S to begin banning certain products between the 70s and the 90s that contained large amounts of asbestos.
- Sprays and adhesives that contained more than one percent of asbestos particles.
- Flooring felt
- Pharmaceutical filters
- Fireplace ornaments
- Paper goods
- Pipe insulation
- Any innovations created using asbestos past 1989
The Environmental Protection Agency made attempts to do a full ban on all asbestos products but was forced to take back their ruling due to pressures from large corporations. Now you’ll find asbestos mostly in automotive products like brake pads and should proceed with caution if you’re having to replace or clean them intimately.
Because this is such a widespread problem, companies are now forced to declare on the packaging if their product contains more than one percent asbestos. If it contains less or the asbestos in the product does not pose any risk of exposure, they do not need to label it.
While there is no nationwide ban, there are organizations employed by the government that continue to research asbestos and they review the manufacturing of these products to keep people safe. They regulate the production of asbestos products so they get to decide if a product will be able to be reproduced or if it will result in a ban.
Due to the prevalence of asbestos as a material, there has been a slew of lawsuits in recent years that are aimed at companies that caused consumers to develop an asbestos-related illness. There are options for you if you are one of these consumers. Some attorneys dedicate their time to taking on asbestos cases and have been able to get patients who have contracted mesothelioma or other related illnesses the kind of compensation they deserve.
It has been found that nearly fifteen percent of talc-based makeup contains traces of asbestos. A lot of older cosmetic brands used talc because it is inexpensive and easy to source, but it contains a good amount of asbestos which can cause a whole host of issues for the consumer. This is one reason to steer clear of putting vintage or older makeup on your face, as it can make you very sick.
Even if it seems like a small amount in comparison to occupational asbestos exposure, even the tracest amounts of asbestos don’t leave your system. If you’re using a talc-based powder every day for twenty years, that is going to add up over time. It is important to check where your makeup is coming from and what the ingredients are, so you know what you’re putting near or on your body.
This goes for other products as well. Even though companies do not have to list that their product contains asbestos if it is under one percent, you should still be cautious about the products you’re consuming so you don’t end up sick.
There are law firms all over the country that specialize in asbestos litigation and can help you get compensation from the negligent companies that caused your diagnosis. They may be able to get you compensation for medical treatments, travel expenses, and if you’re pursuing an action for a loved one who has passed, funeral expenses.
Other countries also do not have the same regulations that we do, so it is possible that if you were to purchase something from another country that still regularly uses asbestos for manufacturing, you could come in contact. It is important to be cautious when you can and keep an eye on the things that you are using in your everyday life so you don’t get caught off-guard.