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Asbestos fibers are heat-resistant, making them useful for many industrial purposes. People working in industries that made or used asbestos products or who are or were involved in asbestos mining may be exposed to high levels of asbestos. People living near these industries may also be exposed to high levels of asbestos in the air.
In residential settings, asbestos is very prevalent. Amphibole asbestos can be found in a variety of building materials, such as insulation, ceiling or floor tiles, and cement pipes. Amphibole asbestos has been found in some vermiculite sources used as home and building insulation.
Much of the asbestos-contaminated vermiculite mined in Libby, Montana, was used to produce attic insulation products. Because many products for residential use contained asbestos, workers or homeowners involved in demolition work, maintenance, repair, or remodeling of buildings containing these products can be exposed to high levels of asbestos.
However, the most prevalent use of asbestos and the greatest risk for exposure can occur in the workplace, for example with jobs such as:
Pipe or Steam Fitter
Brake Repair Mechanic
Dry Wall Finisher
What is common to many asbestos-containing products is that they are used to contain heat (i.e. thermal insulation.) It is impossible to list all of the products that have, at one time or another, contained asbestos.
Refractory and boiler insulation materials
Asbestos cement pipe
Vinyl floor tile
Duct insulation for heating
Ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems
Insulated electrical wire and panels
Brake and clutch assemblies
Some of these products contained a very high proportion of asbestos, while others contained small amounts. Asbestos is still a problem because many asbestos-containing products remain in buildings, ships, industrial facilities and other environments where the fibers can become airborne, and because of the serious human health hazards of inhaling asbestos fibers.
Asbestos fibers can enter the air or water from the breakdown of natural deposits and manufactured asbestos products. For example, a worker can knock asbestos insulation off of a pipe causing the fibers to become airborne and a potential hazard.
Asbestos fibers do not evaporate into air or dissolve in water. Small diameter fibers and particles may remain suspended in the air for a long time and be carried long distances by wind or water before settling down. Larger diameter fibers and particles tend to settle more quickly.
In 1989, the EPA banned all new uses of asbestos; uses established before this date are still allowed. EPA established regulations that require school systems to inspect for damaged asbestos and to eliminate or reduce the exposure by removing the asbestos or by covering it up. EPA regulates the release of asbestos from factories and during building demolition or renovation to prevent asbestos from getting into the environment. Call us today at 800.849.5291 for a free consultation or email us.