November 8, 2011

Asbestos insulation

Asbestos insulation was widely used as an insulation material in most residential, commercial and public buildings constructed between 1920 and 1986. It was used in construction materials including roofing materials, asphalt shingles, roofing felt, adhesives, putty, caulking and patching materials. It is essentially a soft form of silicate that, when airborne, is highly toxic. It can cause mesothelioma and other forms of lung cancer. It is so hazardous that, when it is found in a building, it must be removed in strict compliance with guidelines put into place by the Environmental Protection Agency.

This insulation still can be found in older buildings, and it poses a serious risk to health. If asbestos fibers are inhaled, they can lead to lung cancer and mesothelioma. If you are concerned that asbestos insulation might be present in your home, here are a few tips to help you recognize it.

  1. Look for the brand name Zonolite. This type of insulation was made by W.R. Grace & Co. for many decades, using vermiculite that had been tainted with asbestos. 
  2. Contact the manufacturer, if you know who made it. The company name might be written on the insulation itself. 
  3. Note the appearance of the insulation. Asbestos insulation often looks like a cast used for broken bones, or, alternatively, like ridged paper covered with tape. Tainted vermiculite insulation looks like dark gray pebbles. 
  4. Consider the age of your home. If your home was built recently, you probably will not have asbestos insulation, as it has been phased out of new construction. Older homes still might contain the material, however. 
  5. Contact a certified professional to take a sample of the insulation material and test it for asbestos.