Asbestos contains microscopic fibers that, when released into the air, can be breathed into the lungs, where they can remain for several years before serious health issues become apparent. Exposure to these fibers can cause serious health issues, including cancers like mesothelioma. Insulation was the largest source of exposure to asbestos for workers throughout the 1900s.
Insulation provides many benefits, including energy conservation, sound deadening, reduction of electrical conductivity, and help with the retention of hot and cold temperatures. Asbestos was particularly well-suited for these purposes, as it is fire resistant and a poor conductor of electricity. In addition, it was cheap and durable. The use of asbestos in insulation products began in the late 1800s to help protect against high-temperature pipes. By 1874, asbestos insulation products were commercially produced and sold on a large-scale basis.
Asbestos was used in (and can still be found in some) homes, buildings, ships, cars, and manufacturing facilities. In homes and other buildings, asbestos insulation was used in attics, ceilings, walls, around pipes, boilers, furnaces, and electrical boxes. Bans on the use of asbestos did not occur until the 1970s. In 1991, the ban was lifted, but products cannot contain more than one percent asbestos.
The five main categories of insulation that contained asbestos include:
- Attic: used for heating, ventilation, and cooling (air conditioning) systems. The most widely recognized brand was Zonolite.
- Pipe: often used to control temperatures of hot pipes, particularly those in the building of ships. Today, it is often crumbly, making it particularly dangerous due to fibers being released into the air. Air Cell was a common type.
- Block: applied to concrete blocks of homes and other buildings in order to maintain hot and cold temperatures; it provides protection from outside temperatures.
- Wall: controls the temperature inside a structure, like a home. It is placed inside the drywall between the studs. Often, wall insulation needed to be cut, which released fibers into the air, increasing exposure to fibers
- Spray Applied: popular because it was simple and inexpensive to apply to spaces to help control temperatures. The National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) prohibited the use of spray-application materials containing more than one percent asbestos unless encapsulated with a bituminous or resinous binder.
One of the largest manufacturers of insulation products that contained asbestos was Johns Manville. Workers at particular risk of exposure to asbestos related to insulation included insulators, plumbers, electricians, and pipefitters.
Help for Asbestos Victims
If you believe that you or a loved one have been harmed by exposure to asbestos, it may be possible for you to recover for the damages you have suffered. For more information, speak with an attorney experienced in asbestos-related claims today. At the Throneberry Law Group, we travel across the nation to assist victims in the pursuit of recovery for the damages they have suffered. We look forward to hearing from you and discussing how we can help.