Posts Tagged ‘asbestos construction’

Overview of Asbestos and Its Uses

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that is formed in the earth and removed by mining. It has been used for over 2000 years in a variety of products, most taking advantage of asbestos’ fire-resistant properties. The material has been used in many countries for a variety of purposes. In the United States until the 1970’s, asbestos was commonly used in building materials such as floor tile, insulation, and roofing materials. Use in the US met a seemingly permanent decline in the 1970’s because of research that showed the health risks associated with uses of asbestos. Today, the leading producers of asbestos are Russia and China. The main consumers of asbestos products are China, India, Russia and Thailand.

There are six known types of asbestos which fall into two categories. The amphibole group includes five of the six types: amosite (brown), crocidolite (blue), anthophyllite, tremolite and actinolite. The second group (the sepentine group), is a category of one, including only crysotile, or white asbestos. The properties and risks associated with each type depends on the nature of the fiber and how friable the material is. Friability refers to how easily the material can be launched into the air and potentially enter the lungs.

Although asbestos use has diminished greatly since the 1970’s, people the material is found in many structures. That’s because many of the buildings and structures that were made using asbestos materials still stand today. In homes built before the 1970’s, asbestos was used as insulation to help resist fire damage. Asbestos was often added to cement to increase it’s strength, and as a component of insulation boards, fireplace lining, roofing tiles and floor tiles. Applications that were particularly dangerous involved using more naturally friable forms of asbestos in applications that were more easily disturbed, such as in lagging and acoustic wall and ceiling “popcorn.” Because these materials still exist in many homes today, it is important for homeowners to be informed, especially if they plan to remodel or repair their home. In many cases, leaving the material undisturbed is the best course of action unless the remodel or repair is handled by an asbestos abatement expert.

Asbestos was used starting in the 1940’s in shipyards as insulation around pipes. Because of it’s light weight, low cost and resistance to heat and corrosion, the material was considered ideal until research linked the material to incidence of mesothelioma. Sadly, some companies continued to expose workers to these materials, even after the risks were well-known. Because of mesothelioma’s long latency period, many of these workers did not see health problems until recently. As a result, some people who are being diagnosed with mesothelioma are entitled to legal compensation. For more information on these or other mesothelioma-related topics, please visit our Mesothelioma and Asbestos FAQ or fill out our online form.


Asbestos in Materials Today

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

It may be surprising to hear that asbestos is still used in some products today. Most types of asbestos have been banned since the 1970’s due to the potential connection to mesothelioma. However, one type of asbestos fiber, chrysotile, has been approved for use in some materials. In insulation and appliances, the fibers resist both heat and cold very effectively. Vinyl floor tiles are strengthened by chrysotile against damage such as scuffing and moisture.

While inhaling asbestos poses serious risks to one’s health, chrysotile fibers are generally considered the least dangerous type of asbestos. Research has shown that the fibers are harmless unless disturbed and released in significant quantities into the air. In addition, when these materials are manufactured, the fibers are sealed into the matrix of the material itself, which prevents chrysotile fibers from being released. Provided that the materials remain undisturbed and are not crumbling, there is no significant risk of exposure.

The EPA has very helpful information about asbestos removal do’s and don’ts. People considering asbestos disposal should consult a professional. Do not sand or tear such materials, as this can release the asbestos fibers. If it is suspected, after the fact, that asbestos containing materials have been disturbed, wet the material to prevent further dispersion of fibers. The EPA also advises not to use a household vacuum or broom to remove dust, as these will likely launch the fibers into the air. Trained professionals will use a special vacuum with a HEPA filter designed specially for this type of situation. If surfaces must be cleaned, use wet mops and sponges. A fine mist of water sprayed into the air may help settle dust as well.

Mesothelioma prevention starts with avoiding exposure. Whether remodeling a home built in the 1950’s — prior to asbestos bans — or handling more recent asbestos-containing materials, asbestos disposal professionals can be of great help. An asbestos abatement professional can assess the risk and recommend a method for handling materials and asbestos abatement. They will also have access to the proper equipment and materials necessary to protect people who might otherwise be exposed. Before working with contractors, making inquiries regarding experience levels and training with asbestos can help determine which contractor will take the necessary precautions.

If you think you have been exposed to asbestos, our Mesothelioma FAQ may be of assistance to you.


Avoiding Asbestos Fibers

Monday, June 13th, 2011

Whether you are about to start a construction project or have just completed one, you may have concerns about exposure to asbestos and the reported risk of mesothelioma. Being informed about the materials you will encounter or have encountered is one important step in asbestos remediation and mesothelioma prevention. For example, how you deal with demolition depends largely on the uses of asbestos in the original construction.

When addressing asbestos disposal, handling or abatement in your next project, it is important to understand the difference between friable and non-friable asbestos. Friable asbestos is a general term generally used to describe asbestos that is broken or crumbled easily by hand. If asbestos is friable, there may be a higher likelihood that asbestos fibers will be released into the air during demolition or asbestos disposal.

Non-friable asbestos fibers are considered hard to break by hand, and therefore may have a lower probability of being released into the air. When left alone, non-friable asbestos-containing materials may not pose any serious risk to human health. It is when non-friable asbestos-containing materials are disturbed that they may become a problem.

The EPA has established guidelines for dealing with both friable and non-friable materials. But when it comes to non-friable materials, it becomes important to consider the conditions that influence the level of risk from these materials.

There are many factors that can influence whether an asbestos-containing material is or will become friable. These include: methods of ventilation, demolition and asbestos disposal; the type of material; and when and how the material was made.

The EPA also has established two categories to assist people in determining how to approach these materials. Category 1 non-friable materials are not likely to become friable because of a binding material that locks the fibers together. Category 2 Non-Friable materials have a greater potential to become friable due to frequent use or extreme conditions.

While there are no easy, one-size-fits-all answers for how to address asbestos-containing materials, there are many resources to assist people in mesothelioma prevention. For more information about how to address concerns you may have about mesothelioma, visit our Mesothelioma FAQ.


Dispose of Asbestos Containing Materials

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Asbestos is a naturally-occurring substance made from one of six silicate minerals, which have now been banned due to their link with many health complications, most notably mesothelioma.

Asbestos use has been traced back at least 4,500 years to Finland for strengthening earthenware pots and cooking utensils. The use of asbestos became commonplace between the turn of the 20th century and the late 1970s in industrial capacities. It was also used in brake pads until the mid-1990s.

There are four methods for asbestos disposal; the EPA suggests all methods should be performed by a properly-licensed asbestos abatement company, and any intact asbestos not be touched. Knowing whether a product contains asbestos is not easy unless it’s properly labeled.

The most dangerous method of asbestos removal is dry stripping.  This involves simply removing the asbestos without any amount of moisture. While a simple method, dry stripping can produce a large amount of dust and may release toxins.

High-pressured water removal is a popular method, using the water to force the asbestos away from the people doing the removal. This method is usually reserved for industrial spaces that are hard to reach.

A technique for home asbestos removal is controlled wet stripping, performed by injecting warm water into asbestos with specialized needles. This effectively weighs down the material, which also helps control the amount of dust released.

Another asbestos-removal method is hot stripping. This technique includes the use of a ventilation system along with hot air. By blowing the asbestos fibers with the hot air, any residue can be directed toward a powerful ventilation system.

However, in some cases asbestos material is not removed, but rather encased.

In many countries, asbestos is typically disposed of as hazardous waste in landfill sites. In the United States, OSHA regulations require a sign stating that the hazardous waste or landfill site contains asbestos.

For more information check out our Mesothelioma articles on the laws and regulations concerning asbestos materials.



Second-Hand Asbestos Exposure

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Mesothelioma is well-known for the insidious way in which it manifests itself.  Many contemporary mesothelioma causes find their origin in some sort of  asbestos exposure.  Asbestos exposure usually happens in some sort of commercial context.  That’s because a host of industries, notably the fields of shipbuilding and construction, used to employ the mineral for a variety of purposes, such as effective insulation for ships and buildings.

Part of what makes asbestos such an effective insulation material is its characteristic, nearly feathery structure, which traps significant amounts air and makes heat transfer from one side of asbestos to another more difficult.  Unfortunately, this fibrous, low-density structure also means certain kinds of asbestos become airborne very easily when disturbed.  Once airborne, it’s very easy for asbestos fibers to get inhaled, where they embed themselves in the pleural lining of the lungs.  After a latency period, lasting anywhere from 10 to 50 years, mesothelioma manifests itself.

Though inhalation of asbestos fibers by workers charged with handling it is a common way people get exposed, it’s by no means the only way.  Asbestos fibers can also be ingested.  They can also settle on the clothes of workers and be transported, which is where sad cases of second-hand asbestos exposure can occur.

Such second-hand asbestos exposure can be the result of a loved one of the worker handling that worker’s clothes by, say, washing them, but it can really happen in any number of situations.  Basically, all that needs to happen is for the asbestos fibers on that person’s clothing to be disturbed, become airborne, and become inhaled, a tragic sequence of events.

Of course, another way people not directly involved in handling asbestos can contract asbestos-derived mesothelioma is by simply living in a building that used certain kinds of asbestos in its construction.  The bottom line is, no matter how someone inhales asbestos, the results can be devastating.

Asbestos in Madison Square Garden

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

We like to keep abreast of the latest news related to mesothelioma.  This means reporting on articles published elsewhere about advances in mesothelioma treatment, as well as posting about major mesothelioma settlements or general findings about asbestos and the terrible disease it is linked to.

This post would fall into the latter category.  According to an article found on Fanhouse, an online sports-related website, a basketball game between the New York Knicks and the Orlando Magic scheduled for Tuesday, November 2, 2010 will be postponed because of safety concerns about asbestos contamination in the building.  Asbestos-related materials, the report says, fell from the attic after Monday’s New York Rangers game.

This is certainly no laughing matter.  The fact that a building as popular and oft-frequented as Madison Square Garden is an asbestos exposure-related hazard in 2010 is a testament to how deeply ingrained the blight of asbestos is in our architectural landscape.

The reasons for this are well-documented and deeply unfortunate.  Asbestos was used prominently in the shipbuilding and construction industries because it had many properties that proved beneficial in these fields.  For example, asbestos is a very lightweight yet strong material.  That means that, when mixed with concrete, it made the resulting concrete simultaneously lighter and stronger than traditional concrete.  Thus, a lower weight of concrete could be used, and a lower volume as well.  This reduced transportation and construction costs.

Asbestsos is also very fire-resistant, which made it an excellent insulation material.  It was used between walls in buildings, and on pipes and around boilers in ships.  (Its aforementioned lightweight characteristics proved beneficial in the latter regard, as well).  In short, it was used frequently—and because of that, many people have suffered.

Today, asbestos is reviled for its links with mesothelioma.  It’s a testament to the deadliness of this unfortunate disease that cancellations such as the one above occur.

Uses of Asbestos

Friday, August 27th, 2010

If we look to the history of asbestos as a commercially utilized mineral, there were many uses of asbestos.  That’s because this mineral, at one time very widely mined throughout the world (and still mined to a large degree today), had many properties that made it incredibly useful to many industries, especially the shipbuilding and construction industries.  Back at asbestos’s peak, in the middle of the 20th century, it was widely used despite concerns that it had ramifications for the health of workers exposed to it, concerns that had existed in one form or another since Greeks first mined and used the material over two millenia ago.

As previously mentioned, asbestos found its utilization highest in the construction and shipbuilding industries.  Within the field of construction, asbestos was used as an insulator.  Since it was such a fibrous mineral, asbestos can have significant amounts of air within it, which makes it a great insulator.  It was also used as a flame retardant for similar reasons.

Primarily, however, asbestos was utilized as an additive to cement.  Adding asbestos to cement had several advantages.  Of significant importance was that it increased the strength of cement by up to tenfold.  Because of this, less cement needed to be used for construction projects, which allowed for a) greater efficiency on the construction site and b) lowered transportation costs for the cement.  It worked wonderfully for those reasons.

In shipyards, asbestos had somewhat similar applications.  It was used as insulation for piping.  In this capacity, asbestos was ideal because it was cheap, lightweight, and excellent at the task needed.  Its use was not limited to pipes, as engines and boilers were often encased in asbestos as well.

Despite its apparent excellence as a construction supply, however, asbestos ultimately declined due to its incredibly negative side effect, namely, as the primary cause of mesothelioma.

If you or someone you love worked with asbestos in their line of work and has contracted mesothelioma, it might be a good idea to consider contacting a mesothelioma lawyer with a proven track record of success.  A mesothelioma settlement won’t cure the disease, but it may help making the quality of life of a victim suffering from the disease a bit better.

Secondary Asbestos Exposure Decision

Monday, May 10th, 2010

Mesothelioma lawsuits have traditionally been high-stakes, but the outcome of a recent trial in California might be uncharted territory, as far as payout size is concerned.

According to an article found on the Surviving Mesothelioma site, jurors in a recent case involving a woman who allegedly contracted mesothelioma by washing her husband’s asbestos-tainted clothing ruled in her favor, awarding her $208.8 million in total damages.  Of that total, $8.8 million was compensatory, while $200 million was punitive.

The article states that Bobby Evans, a worker for the L.A. Department of Water and Power from 1974 to 1998, had to, among other things, had to cut asbestos cement pipes as part of his job’s duties.  These pipes, manufactured by CertainTeed Corporation, released asbestos fibers into the air when cut.  These fibers then settled into his clothing, which were then apparently released into the air when his wife, Rhoda, washed them.

Unfortunately, there is nothing new about this claim.  Many industries, but primarily the shipbuilding and construction ones, historically used asbestos as an insulator and a fire retardant.  It did both jobs well, and was a remarkably light material to boot, so it was highly prized.  Unfortunately, it also causes devastating lung diseases, including mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other debilitating cancers.  It decimated workers in those very industries that used it most.

What’s more, the lightweight fibers did have a tendency to get stuck in clothing and hair, which could then be disturbed in workers’ households and inhaled by his family.  Hence the very real possibility that this is indeed what happened to Rhoda Evans.

Though $208.8 million seems like a staggering payday, there’s a good chance that the final amount will be lowered in an appeal.  What’s more, mesothelioma is an absolutely ravaging disease, one that, as of now, has no apparent cure.  Despite constant improvements in mesothelioma treatment, the life expectancy of a victim is often measured in months, not years.