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Where is Asbestos Found?

Asbestos is a type of naturally occurring mineral that is made up of microscopic fibrous particles. Because its fibers are extremely durable and resistant to heat and even fire, asbestos was thought to be well-suited for commercial and industrial purposes. Because of its initial popularity, asbestos is found in many different places. However, beginning in the 1960s, asbestos was shown to be a cause of terminal illnesses such as mesothelioma. As a result of this link, all new uses of asbestos in the United States have been banned since 1989.

Since it's not possible to remove asbestos from each and every product that was manufactured before that date, it's important to be familiar with the many different substances, products, and materials that may contain asbestos. In addition, certain products are still produced using asbestos.The following information will help you determine whether you or a loved one may have been exposed to asbestos and learn where asbestos is found.

Where is Asbestos Found in Homes?

Asbestos was commonly used in home construction before the link between asbestos exposure and mesothelioma was widely known. Common uses of asbestos in the home included:

  • Roofing shingles
  • Siding
  • Insulation in houses built between 1930 and 1950
  • Paint applied before 1977
  • Coating surrounding hot water pipes or steam pipes
  • Tiles surrounding stoves, fireplaces, or furnaces
  • Vinyl flooring

It's important to keep in mind that just because an older house was built with materials that contain asbestos does not necessarily mean that those materials pose a health risk. If you think that asbestos may be in your home, it's probably best to leave asbestos-containing material alone if those items are intact and in good condition. You should instead contact a professional who can assess the risk and remove the materials if necessary. Asbestos poses a danger only if the fibers are disturbed in some way and released into the air where they can be inhaled. Building materials that are still in good condition may actually pose no health risk.

Where is Asbestos Found in the Workplace?

The same qualities of durability and resistance to heat were also thought to make asbestos especially suitable for materials in the workplace. However, the nature of the workplace means that asbestos fibers are more likely to be released into the air. Accordingly, workplace materials containing asbestos can pose more of a health risk than similar materials in the home. Common workplace items that may contain asbestos include:

  • Acoustic and soundproofing material
  • Boiler insulation material
  • Caulking material
  • Fire blankets and curtains
  • Laboratory gloves
  • Packing material
  • Spackling products

Because the adverse health consequences of asbestos exposure often take years or even decades to develop, it may be difficult to determine which workplace items caused a patient to develop asbestosis or mesothelioma. However, employees who have worked in the same workplace for a number of years will often develop similar symptoms, making it more likely that they came into contact with asbestos fibers in the course of their jobs.

Where is Asbestos Found in Consumer Products?

Certain older consumer goods or household items also contain asbestos. Found primarily in appliances, it also can show up in toys and even potting soil. Consumer goods that contain asbestos can include:

  • Appliances such as toasters or coffee makers
  • Clothing irons
  • Ironing boards
  • Hair dryers
  • Electric blankets
  • Chalkboards
  • Potting soil containing vermiculite
  • Automobile brakes
  • Children's toys

Even though asbestos is generally no longer used in everyday consumer items manufactured in the United States, asbestos has been found in products that have been imported into the United States from abroad. Certain consumer advocacy groups regularly test such products for traces of asbestos, and often publish their findings if there is a potential health hazard associated with them.

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Even though it has been phased out of consumer products, asbestos can still be found in many older buildings and even in your own home. And while asbestos-related illnesses are rare, they often take many decades to develop and produce symptoms. If you have reason to believe you may have been exposed or have developed symptoms of asbestos-related illness, seek immediate medical care and contact a qualified local asbestos attorney for a free initial case assessment.

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