Gaskets are pieces of equipment that create a tight seal between pipes and other pieces of the machinery. In the past, these were commonly used in engines–that is, until the toxic nature of asbestos came to light.
Chief Ingredient in Products
Up until 1978, when asbestos was first banned in these products, gaskets and other items were routinely made using asbestos. These items made with asbestos prevented machinery and pipes from leaking by sealing the tight spaces within the metal parts and became an essential component within the industrial world. In more recent times, manufacturers have found several other heat resistant substitutes that work equally as well but without the safety concerns.
Some of the most common types of asbestos gaskets include:
- Rope gasket
- Oval gasket
- Spiral wound gasket
- Sheet gasket
Soft rope became a popular choice because it is fireproof and could be made for any shape or size. It offered a sealant for boilers, doors and other spaces. Unfortunately, the loose binding of the fibers made exposure more likely. Oval gaskets are a softer material using a wire insert to add strength. The spiral wound is made from concentric layers and has a strong design. However pure fibers are incorporated which again increase the risk of exposure for anyone working with this material. Finally, the sheet gasket would be mass produced as standardized parts, and the fibers were made into a firm and cardboard type of sheet. In these ways, gaskets were made from every type of shape and size.
How This Can Be Dangerous
Most commonly, depending on the sheet type, anywhere from 70 to 80 percent was chrysotile, which has become known as white asbestos. This is the most common type in industrial applications, and in fact, it accounts for 95 percent of the asbestos-based products used within the United States because it occurs naturally within the United States.
Some of the other types of asbestos include:
If these materials are cut or damaged, the fibers released into the air where they can be inhaled into the lungs. This can lead to everyone in the area being exposed to these harmful fibers. Over time, the fibers begin to cause cellular damage and can ultimately result in cancers like mesothelioma.