Asbestos gas fireplace log in a home in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato (C) Daniel Friedman 2008Photos of Examples of unusual uses of asbestos in buildings

  • ASBESTOS in UNUSUAL PLACES - CONTENTS: Examples of unusual uses of asbestos insulation material in buildings. Asbestos used as building insulation - asbestos pipe insulation misplaced in attic floor. Asbestos Gas-Fireplace & Gas Fireplace Log Materials.
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Unusual or unanticipated uses of asbestos on or in buildings:

This article provides examples of examples of unusual uses of asbestos insulation material in buildings, most likely also hazards that should be evaluated.

This document assists building buyers, owners or inspectors who need to identify asbestos materials (or probable-asbestos) in buildings by simple visual inspection. We provide photographs and descriptive text of asbestos insulation and other asbestos-containing products to permit identification of definite, probable, or possible asbestos materials in buildings.

Page top photo: an asbestos-containing gas fireplace log in a home in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato.

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Examples of unusual uses of asbestos insulation material in buildings

Asbestos heating pipe insulation placed by prior owner under attic floorboardsArticle Index

Asbestos pipe insulation, found under attic floor as house insulation

In our photograph we show some unusual "attic insulation," made of corrugated asbestos "paper" laid flat, was in the floor of a 1940s house in New York state.

[Click to enlarge any image]

We speculated that the installer had a source of "free" insulation and that it was installed before the asbestos scare.

Asbestos Gas-Fireplace Materials in Old Houses

Photograph of a pre-1900 gas fireplace containing asbestos

This pre-1900 gas fireplace found in a Minnesota home used tufts of asbestos fibers to support the heating flame. [Photograph courtesy Roger Hankey.]

Photograph of a pre-1900 gas fireplace containing asbestos

Asbestos use in Gas Fireplace Logs

Photograph of building damage near Los Angeles 2000 © Daniel FriedmanQuestion: when did gas fireplaces use asbestos logs, rocks, ashes?

2017/09/19 Bill said:

Is it likely that a 1991-93 gas fireplace has asbestos logs, rocks, or ashes?

This question was posted originally at ASBESTOS PHOTO GUIDE to MATERIALS

Reply: U.S. Title 16 › Chapter II › Subchapter B Consumer Product Safety Act › Part 1305 › Section 1305.5: asbestos in emberizing materials

This title contains U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) rules and proposed rules published in the U.S. Federal Register relating to Title 16


The answer depends largely on when and where the gas-logs were manufactured and sold. For example in the U.S. it would be highly unlikely to find asbestos gas-logs in 1991, but in some other countries such products may still have been marketed.

The U.S. CFR regulation I excerpt below had its first version published in the Congressional Record on 7 July 1983 - see the search I used given in citations below.

Gas log fireplace (C) Daniel FriedmanIn the CURRENT U.S. Title 16 › Chapter II › Subchapter B› Part 1305 › Section 1305.5 (Thanks to Cornell Law School, Legal Information Institute)

§ 1305.5 Findings.

(a) The degree and nature of the risk of injury. The Commission finds that the risk of injury which this regulation is designed to eliminate or reduce is from cancer, including lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Measurements are not available of the amounts of asbestos in the air from asbestos-containing emberizing materials in homes.

However, it appears that the amount of airborne asbestos in such homes would increase when air currents in the home are created by downdrafts from a fireplace chimney or other activities that stir air in any room.

Since emberizing materials may contain up to 50 percent asbestos, which if not permanently bound into artificial fireplace logs would be in respirable form, the risk associated with emberizing materials is considerable, especially since it continues to exist 24 hours a day.

(b) Products subject to the ban. Artificial emberizing materials are decorative simulated ashes or embers, used in certain gas-buring fireplace systems, which glow to give the appearance of real burning embers.

The material is sprinkled on or glued to gas logs, or sprinkled on fireplace floors.

(c) Need of the public for the products and effects of the rule on their utility, cost, and availability. Artificial fireplace emberizing material serves a strictly decorative purpose and does not materially affect the actual performance of the fireplace gas system in terms of its ability to provide heat.

A certain degree of aesthetic desirability exists, however, since the product “system” itself (the gas log, ashes, and embers) is intended to simulate burning wooden logs.

Gas logs may be sold with artificial emberizing material attached at the factory (the log commonly referred to as being “frosted”), or with the “embers” in a separate kit, often mixed with simulated “ashes.”

Virtually all gas logs are either frosted or packaged with an emberizing kit; however, the majority of gas logs produced in 1977 were packaged with non-asbestos-containing emberizing kits.

The Commission estimates annual sales of artificial gas logs at approximately 100,000 units. Some 25,000-30,000 of these would be subject to the ban.

Approximately 100,000 gas logs frosted or treated by consumers with asbestos are estimated to be in existence.

The Commission believes that the majority of gas logs are sold with emberizing kits; this gives the consumer a choice as to whether or not to use the artificial embers and ashes.

(1) Utility. Manufacturers of artificial gas log emberizing material are currently using four substitutes for asbestos in their products: vermiculite, rock wool, mica, and a synthetic fiber.

None of the four is claimed to be as aesthetically effective as asbestos. Thus, the utility derived by consumers from some gas-burning fireplace systems may be adversely affected.

Asbestos used in light bulbs?

2016/02/29 Cam said:

Currently there are a couple articles on the internet indicates that light bulbs of the typical consumer type can contain asbestos. One has to do with Westinghouse asbestos litigation, the other is mesotheliomia info site.

I am wondering where in the light bulb asbestos would be. I can only imagine it might be in the material that binds the glass globe to the socket or possibly in the plastic or bitumin insulating material at the base. Can you clarify and is there any easy way to identify?
thanks, Cam

Reply: asbestos was used in some light bulbs & fixtures as an insulator, in special-purpose lamps & bulbs, & in fragrance dispensers

Thanks for the interesting question Cam.

Asbestos used in light bulb - fragrance dispenser system Andre Patent 1956 -

[Click to enlarge any image]

Above: Patent detail from Andre, 1956, showing use of asbestos as part of a fragrance dispensing system in a light bulb or lamp system. In this application asbestos-based blotting paper may have been used on the exterior of an ordinary light bulb. Most asbestos uses were inside of the lamp or bulb.

Indeed asbestos was used in some light bulbs, including some more-or less conventional bulbs such as fdor outdoor or farm use (Gross 1949).

To date my research through patents suggests that the most frequent use of asbestos in specialty bulbs including bulbs used in analysis or detection of certain elements or chemicals, and in light-bulb-activated fragrance dispensers, some of which included asbestos on the bulb exterior (Andre 1956), perfume dispensers, room deodorizers, and vaporizers used for treatment of colds or other illnesses (Curban 1932).

Asbestos was also used inside the bulb in some bulb bases for mounting other elements, probably in a cementious mix. And asbestos was also used in some in-bulb mountants or insulators and in asbestos-containing washers in bulbs because of its insulating properties. And asbestos-coated foil or other materials was used in some lamps designed as late as 1970 (Hancock 1970).

A patent search for asbestos uses in light bulbs and fragrance dispensers shows a long history of these applications and also indicates that contemporary (after the late 1970's) at least in North America, those asbestos-containing lamps, light fixtures, and fragrance dispensers had been replaced by re-designed devices that avoided asbestos-use.

Some lamp and bulb patents we researched were indeed ultimately assigned to major producers such as General Electric and Westinghouse. However have not yet been able to find scholarly research articles detailing support for asbestos exposure traced to light bulb manufacture.

Watch out: Some confusion about asbestos hazards and light bulbs may arise from sloppy research (including by mesothelioma attorneys) that encounters warnings of asbestos exposure when changing light bulbs mounted on or in ceilings that may themselves have contained asbestos (that is asbestos-containing ceiling materials). Those might include acoustic ceiling tiles, plaster, drywall joint compound, and possibly some suspended ceiling tiles.

In addition, in researching asbestos exposure from light bulb use or manufacture, I found online photographs of non-asbestos materials such as mineral-wool insulation that were described by the people posting the photograph as an example (mistaken) of asbestos hazards.

In my OPINION, the hazard to consumers from asbestos in light bulbs used in their homes would generally be beneath the limits of detection, particularly since asbestos used in these devices was generally inside the device. But there may have been measurable hazards for people working in the industries that produced those products.

Indeed some of the web pages posted by legal firms seeking mesothlioma litigation clients cite exposure of Westinghouse workers to asbestos when manufacturing light bulbs, power plants, electrical insulation and wiring, and in performing maintenance that required removal of asbestos containing materials.

U.S. patents involving use of asbestos in bulbs, lamps, lights, and fragrance dispensers

Brewster light bulb and asbestos fragrance dispenser 1949

Above: illustration from Brewster's asbestos-fragrance dispenser light bulb attachment, 1949.

Hancock patented ornamental bulb using asbestos

Above: Hancock's ornamental lamp using asbestos in its construction.

Asbestos Use in Glass-Faced Radiant Heat Panels?

Radiant heat glass panel - from a heater that may have used asbestos (C) - MarieQuestion: was asbestos used in old glass radiant electric heat panels?

2017/12/02 Marie said:

Hi, I have some old glass radiant electric heat panels (maybe from the 1960's?) that were the heating system in my house

Rad. I replaced them several years ago with a non-glass radiant panel. I'm now trying to re-purpose or recycle the glass panels, but I notice that they are backed with a putty-like substance behind the metal grid and I'm wondering if that substance contains asbestos.


I can't say for all radiant heater brands but at least some radiant heat glass panel products used asbestos in various components as I'll detail in our research findings below..

Can you tell me brand and model and attach a photo?

Reader follow-up:

Marie said

I can't find any markings of a brand name. I know Glassheat was one of the popular brands at that time. Panels are about 25" x 17".


As some radiant heaters that used glass panels used asbestos in glazing putties as well as in some gaskets it would be prudent to assume that is the case for your heater. Asbestos was also uses as components of the heating element inside of some glass fronted and other radiant heaters.

I'm doubtful that asbestos forms a component of the glass panel itself.

Patent research confirms that asbestos was used in radiant heaters made by Glassheat in the 1950s, in at least one instance:

And asbestos was used or at least discussed in several forms such as asbestos gaskets in a variety of radiant heaters:

including sometimes as a component of the heating element as recently as 1981:

Reader follow-up

Marie said: Thank you. I will dispose of them with that in mind.


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