October 23, 2011

asbestos in plaster

Many people often ask the question, "Is there asbestos in plaster?", as this is a very real threat. You may have widely heard that asbestos is mixed into plaster and this leaves one slightly concerned about asbestos in plaster in our own homes. Asbestos is a toxic mineral, and prolonged asbestos exposure can lead to a lot of dangers. The embedding of asbestos in the body for a long period of time can lead to some serious diseases like asbestosis and mesothelioma. 

Asbestos is a mineral that has been in use for about two centuries now and its presence can be found in around three to five thousand different types of products. Many manufacturing industries have used asbestos as a component for their products, and many home appliances contain traces of this mineral as well. 

Every home has plaster in it, and till the 1980's asbestos in homes construction was the norm. This proved to be highly risky as it implied that an individual inhaled the asbestos for hours at a stretch, every single day of his life. In the long run this would prove to be very harmful for the human body. It was medically known that if, asbestos is inhaled or ingested in the body, it becomes embedded in the tissues. And since the mineral is toxic in nature, this was not a very pleasant observation. 

Inhalation of the needle like fibers of asbestos also results in the asbestos getting lined along the lungs, and the inflammation caused by these fibers lead to a lot of serious diseases for the individual. Hence, asbestos in plaster walls was met with a lot of disbelief and surprise, not to mention concern for the safety and well-being of the people living in a home. 

Properties and Uses of Asbestos 

Asbestos is quite a unique mineral, and its properties have made it possible to include asbestos in the manufacturing of many different kinds of products. Asbestos is highly resistant to high temperatures, extreme weather conditions and wear and tear. This was the primary reason why asbestos in plaster ceilings and walls was quite common. Asbestos can also be spun and woven into a variety of forms as the crystals of the mineral are very long, silky and flexible. 

The uses of asbestos have been equally varied, owing to its incredibly flexible properties. The ancient Greeks used asbestos by weaving it into oil lamp wicks, tablecloths and funeral shrouds. At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution it was used as an insulator for various engines, boilers and industrial pipes. 

Pretty soon asbestos in plaster became popular because it acted as a great insulator against sound and fire. A lot of office buildings, public buildings and schools made use of asbestos in plaster to make the walls and ceilings stronger and more resistant to extreme conditions of heat and to prevent sound from passing through. 

Recognizing of Risks 

As more and more people started learning about the asbestos health effects and its potential dangers, the use of asbestos in plaster became less and less common. The health risks involved with the mineral induced many people to turn their backs on the product's presence in many appliances, and since the 1980's the use of asbestos in plaster became incredibly diminished. Very few products using asbestos were manufactured as a result, and any products that did contain asbestos were subject to the Hazardous Products Act, which regulated and monitored the levels of asbestos in plaster and other products. Some products though, like brake linings and clutch facings, still use asbestos as they are unable to work properly with substitute. 

It is very difficult to simply look at a building now and ascertain if it contains asbestos in plaster. But as a rule of thumb, any building that was built before the 80's, will most certainly contain some traces of asbestos in them. This cannot be solved unless the building itself is demolished. For safety precautions though, one can find and seal off the areas in the walls and ceilings from where the asbestos dust could escape. Getting a contractor to do this job in your home is highly advisable.