Asbestos heating pipe insulation placed by prior owner under the attic floorboards - perhaps he got it free from his heating companyPhotos 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 Materials in Old Houses
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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.

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Examples of unusual uses of asbestos insulation material in buildings

Asbestos pipe insulation, found under attic floor as house insulation

Below 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.

Asbestos heating pipe insulation placed by prior owner under attic floorboards

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

Question: Was 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.


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