For more than 100 years, asbestos was a pillar of manufacturing not only in America, but all over the world. Use of the substance became particularly widespread in the late 19th century. It was cheap, and there was virtually no end to what could be made from it. At the height of its use, asbestos was used as a key ingredient in bricks, pipes, cement, drywall, flooring tiles, shingles, gaskets, insulation, brake pads, and fireproofing materials. Now that the negative health effects of asbestos are better understood, however, its use has sharply declined.
Asbestos-Containing Products Still Used Today
While asbestos use is heavily regulated, it continues to be used in trace amounts in a variety of different products.
|Roofing felt||Disc brake pads||Some potting soils|
|Clutch facing||Brake linings||Vinyl tiles|
|Gaskets||Roof coating||Automatic transmission parts|
|Insulation||Millboard||Drum brake linings|
|Roofing tiles||Pipeline wrap||Specialized fireproof clothing|
|Cement corrugated sheeting||Brake blocks||Cement pipes|
|Cement flat sheeting||Electrical paper||Cement shingles|
How to Tell If a Product Contains Asbestos
Although asbestos use in the United States has drastically decreased and many countries no longer use it at all, it still remains a threat to the public’s health. The United Kingdom banned asbestos in 1999. However, a study released by The Guardian in April of 2011 found that over 50% of homes still contained the substance in one form or another. The situation in the United States is very similar. Because asbestos was so widely used in construction and manufacturing materials, it remains present in thousands of buildings, homes, and products across the country.
If you’re unsure whether or not a product contains asbestos, there are several ways to find out. Contact a manufacturer directly to obtain more information on which of their products use the substance. Read product labels, and know exactly when a product was manufactured. If there’s a product you’re still unsure of, contact a licensed asbestos inspector and have them examine it.
How to Dispose of Asbestos Products
Strict laws have been put into place at the federal, state, and sometimes local levels so that asbestos is removed and disposed of in a way that’s safe for both workers and the environment.
Often, a licensed asbestos abatement contractor inspects any asbestos-containing material – referred to as ACM – that needs to be disposed of in order to determine whether or not they actually contain the substance. However, individuals are free to skip this step and assume that these materials contain asbestos. If a structure is marked for renovation or demolition, then it must be inspected. Any materials found to contain asbestos must be disposed of. Federal regulations prohibit the material from being reused or reinstalled in any way.
The exact manner in which ACM are disposed of is determined by the amount they actually contain. In many cases, the asbestos must be wetted to prevent particles from spreading, then packed in leak-tight bags. If the asbestos is not wetted, it can’t be handled in a way that would cause it to spread.
Those allowed to remove ACM are determined by the amount involved and how it is to be removed. Regulations have also been put in place mandating the use of safety gear as well as training on proper disposal techniques. Once removed, ACM must always be disposed of at approved waste disposal sites.
Those disposing of asbestos should always consult official guidelines to make sure the work they’re performing is done properly.
Has Asbestos Use Been Banned?
Not in the United States, although attempts have been made. In 1973, the Environmental Protection Agency used the Clean Air Act to ban the use of asbestos in spray-on fireproofing materials. Other rules were enacted in the years that followed, prohibiting the use of asbestos in drywall spackle, hot water tanks, and other products.
In 1989, the EPA introduced the Asbestos Ban and Phase Out Rule, which would have imposed a complete ban on the substance. However, the asbestos industry lobby appealed the decision, and in 1991, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated and remanded the rule, stating that the EPA had failed to sufficiently justify its decision. As a result, the importation, processing, distribution, and manufacturing of asbestos were allowed to continue.
Asbestos is no longer mined in the United States, although it’s still imported. While manufacturers are able to produce asbestos containing products, they’re required to obtain EPA approval before manufacturing anything that wasn’t on the market before 1989.
According to the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, 55 nations across the world have banned the use of asbestos. These include Austria, Germany, Greece, South Korea, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. This makes the United States one of a dwindling number of developed countries that has yet to ban the substance outright.
Learn more about attempts to ban asbestos in the United States.