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Asbestos products & applications: what types of products were made using asbestos, and what were the various industrial and private markets for asbestos materials? This article gives the history of and describes the various applications of use of asbestos. We include an original table listing the wide range of asbestos-containing products across all areas and uses, and we link to a newer, more complete list of asbestos products & materials.
This articles series about the manufacture & use of asbestos-containing products includes detailed information on the production methods, asbestos content, and the identity and use of asbestos-containing materials. Our page top photo shows asbestos hardcast or paste insulation used on the exterior of a heating boiler.
Basic and applied research and development programs
have been carried out for many years on asbestos materials
and their products. The consumption and sales of asbestos
as well as the diversity of its applications have been
[Click to enlarge any image]
New mine deposits have been located
and improved mining processes have been discovered.
in turn have stimulated new product development. The
future growth of the industry may be estimated from
an analysis of the items in Table 1.7.
Asbestos products are
important contributors to the comfort and safety of mankind;
they are also important base materials for our
highly scientific and space age.
Materials exist for insulating
the home, operating automobiles, reducing or eliminating
fire hazards in industry and at home, protecting buildings,
pipes and other items against corrosion and decay; the same
materials service blast furnaces and steel mills, permit operation
of and provide protection in electric power stations, provide
fire resistant products on hoard ships, and help in the
development and progress of missiles and aircraft.
1.8 through 1.11 inclusive, shown at left and below.
Figure 1.8. The Vanguard satellite rocket (Cape Canaveral, Florida)
shown at take-off. Asbestos parts include 6 1/2-ft. nose cone, electrical
and thermal insulation, conduits etc.
(Official U. S. Navy Photo)
Asbestos in Building Construction
Asbestos-cement products are
widely used in commercial and industrial buildings and
Such products utilize the largest quantity
They include siding and roofing shingles, flat
and corrugated sheets, and wall boards, all of which are now
available in many different decorative colors.
Within recent years  approximately one-half of all asbestos
used in the United States was employed in the manufacture
of asbestos-cement sheets, pipes and floor tile.
Another important item is millboard. This product is similar to cardboard in appearance but is much tougher and stronger.
Incombustible insulation boards are available in different
colors. Another building material is asbestos-felted roof insulation;
this material is generally combined with asphalt.
Figure 1.10 Aluminized asbestos fabric used in safety clothing for
hot spots—furnace repair, coking, working white hot ingots, etc.
(Courtesy Mine Safety Appliances Co.). See ASBESTOS TEXTILES.
Asbestos filled plaster, stucco and paints provide fire resistance
with low maintenance and good appearance.
In the hard-surface floor covering industry, asphalt and
vinyl-asbestos tiles (ASBESTOS FLOOR TILES) have helped to build a major industry.
Now they account for approximately 29 per cent of the flooring
The original textile use of asbestos was
in such woven products as coats, aprons, shoes, and gloves.
Next came asbestos curtains for the theatre and for other
public buildings. Now the textile uses are indeed diversified.
These uses include fire blankets, iron rollers, electrolytic
cells, filters, linings for ovens and refrigerators and oven or
As illustrated by our photo, asbestos textiles were also widely used in HVAC systems to provide flexible, heat-resistant connections between the air handler and ductwork, functioning as a vibration dampener to avoid sending equipment noises into the building. See ASBESTOS DUCT VIBRATION DAMPENERS.
Asbestos cloth continues to play an important part in the
manufacture of woven brake linings, clutch plates, and
related friction products.
Asbestos yarn and cloth are important as reinforcing
agents or fillers for gaskets and packings. Such diversified
types of hinders as organic and inorganic resins and rubbers
are used with asbestos to provide products which are resistant
to high temperature, to chemicals, to high pressures and
Asbestos is incorporated in filters (woven or nonwoven
form) and it is used to filter such products as dust, chemicals,
blood, and viruses.
Asbestos Use in Heat Insulators
Asbestos fiber is used alone or in combination
with other materials to produce temperature or
electrical insulations. The heat insulators can be used to
conserve fuel, eliminate overheating of areas, or protect
other products from fire.
Such varied types of heat, insulators
as millboard, molded shapes for pipes, other heat-generating
units, and different grades of paper are manufactured.
At left: photo of asbestos paper insulation remaining on an HVAC air ducts - D. Friedman
Insulators for heat and sound generating units are made
so that they provide maximum efficiency in these applications.
These types of products contain a very small percentage
of binder. Insulating material is also applied by spraying.
Asbestos filled inorganic binders are predominantly used.
Asbestos paper (above left) and on occasion asbestos fabric (above right) was used to wrap the exterior of heating ducts and their connection to heating registers - Ed.. For details about asbestos cloth or fabrics or paper used in these applications see:
Asbestos filled thermal insulation is an essential part of
modern equipment in most manufacturing plants. Such insulation
applies to boilers, pipes, reactors, etc.
At left: photo of nearly pure tremolite asbestos panels attached to a commercial building ceiling to provide heat and fireproofing insulation - D. Friedman
plants may use asbestos electrical insulation on many of
their cables and wires. This is clone so that when cables are
overloaded and/or subjected to extreme high temperatures,
the asbestos fiber will occupy space with relatively no loss
in density or bulk.
Where high electrical insulation value is required and
extremely thin paper products are required, asbestos
products find good application. Extremely thin paper
sheets which are composed of nonmagnetic contaminants
Some general applications of asbestos products in the
electrical industry include conduit coverings, spark arrestors,
battery boxes, armature windings, bus bars, motor
slot wedges and other parts requiring good electrical properties
and high temperature resistance.
Asbestos Use in Motors and Engines
Nonwoven asbestos is extensively
used in brake linings, clutch facings, packings, and gaskets.
Asbestos filled plastics have found applications in such
varied automotive or motor parts as heaters, electrical units,
bearings, washers, etc. Such varied fillers as metals, graphite,
sisal, and glass, in addition to asbestos are frequently used.
Typical mass produced asbestos filled phenolic parts are
distributor covers and rotors.
Another application for asbestos is in lubricants to give
solidity and to regulate the melting temperature or the rate
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 Asbestos, its Industrial Applications, D.V. Rosato, engineering consultant, Newton MA, Reinhold Publishing Co., NY, 1959, Library of Congress Catalog No. 59-12535. We are in process of re-publishing this interesting text. Excerpts & adaptations are found in InspectApedia.com articles on asbestos history, production & visual identification in and on buildings.
 "Asbestos in Plastic Compositions", A.B. Cummins, Modern Plastics [un-dated, pre 1952]
 "Asbestos in Your Home," Spokane County Air Pollution Control Authority, Spokane WA 509-477-4727 www.scapa.org provides a one-page image, a .pdf file drawing of a house warning of some possible sources of asbestos in the home. The sources are not ranked according to actual risk of releasing hazardous levels of airborne asbestos fibers and the list is useful but incomplete.
 The US EPA provides a sample list of asbestos containing products epa.gov/earth1r6/6pd/asbestos/asbmatl.htm
 "Characterization of asbestos exposure among
automotive mechanics servicing and handling
asbestos-containing materials", Gary Scott Dotson, University of South Florida, 1 June 2006, web search 3/9/2012 original source: scholarcommons.usf.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3505&context=etd [copy on file as /hazmat/Automotive_Asbestos_Exposuret.pdf ].
 Asbestos Identification and Testing References
Asbestos Identification, Walter C.McCrone, McCrone Research Institute, Chicago, IL.1987 ISBN 0-904962-11-3. Dr. McCrone literally "wrote the book" on asbestos identification procedures which formed
the basis for current work by asbestos identification laboratories.
Stanton, .F., et al., National Bureau of Standards Special Publication 506: 143-151
Pott, F., Staub-Reinhalf Luft 38, 486-490 (1978) cited by McCrone
 Asbestos in Your Home U.S. EPA, Exposure Evaluation Division, Office of Toxic Substances, Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington,D.C. 20460
 Asbestos products and their history and use in various building materials such as asphalt and vinyl flooring includes discussion which draws on Asbestos, Its Industrial Applications, D.V. Rosato, engineering consultant, Newton, MA, Reinhold Publishing, 1959 Library of Congress Catalog Card No.: 59-12535 (out of print, text and images available at InspectAPedia.com).
 "Handling Asbestos-Containing roofing material - an update", Carl Good, NRCA Associate Executive Director, Professional Roofing, February 1992, p. 38-43
 EPA Guidance for Controlling Asbestos-Containing Materials in buildings, NIAST, National Institute on Abatement Sciences & Technology, [republishing EPA public documents] 1985 ed., Exposure Evaluation Division, Office of Toxic Substances, Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington,D.C. 20460 Copy on file as - /hazmat/Asbestos_in_Your_Home_US_EPA.pdf - Asbestos in Your Home - U.S. EPA, Exposure Evaluation Division, Office of Toxic Substances, Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington,D.C. 20460
Basic Information about Asbestos, US EPA, web search 08/17/2010, original source: http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/pubs/help.html
"Handling Asbestos-Containing roofing material - an update", Carl Good, NRCA Associate Executive Director, Professional Roofing, February 1992, p. 38-43
EPA Guidance for Controlling Asbestos-Containing Materials in buildings, NIAST, National Institute on Abatement Sciences & Technology, [republishing EPA public documents] 1985 ed., Exposure Evaluation Division, Office of Toxic Substances, Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington,D.C. 20460
Copy on file as - /hazmat/Asbestos_in_Your_Home_US_EPA.pdf - Asbestos in Your Home - U.S. EPA, Exposure Evaluation Division, Office of Toxic Substances, Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington,D.C. 20460
[copy on file as /hazmat/Vermiculite_US_EPA.pdf/ Current Best Practices for Vermiculite Attic Insulation - May 2003, U.S. EPA
[copy on file as] /hazmat/Vermiculite_Health_Canada.pdf] Vermiculite Insulation Containing Amphibole Asbestos - September 2009, Health Canada
Managing Asbestos in Place, How to Develop and Maintain a Building Asbestos Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Program, U.S. EPA, web search 01/20/2011, original source: http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/pubs/management_in_place.html
Asbestos Strategies, Lessons Learned about Management and Use of Asbestos: Report of Findings and Recommendations on the Use and Management of Asbestos, 16 May 2003, US EPA, web search 01/20/2011, original source: http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/pubs/asbstrategiesrptgetf.pdf
prepared by the: Global Environment & Technology Foundation, 7010 Little River Turnpike, Suite. 460, Annandale VA 20003
Other US EPA Publications on asbestos: web search 01/20/2011, see http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/pubs/pubs.html
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
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The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume.
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