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Asbestos Usage in the United States

Asbestos Usage in the United States

While most current uses of asbestos are restricted to either the construction or automotive industries, products contaminated with asbestos do make their way into the hands of consumers. One such product we are all familiar with is the gray roll of duct tape. Other products intended for use in these two industries might include brake pads or linings or transmission parts used by men who like to work on their cars.

Do-It-Yourself Home Improvement

Other do-it-yourselfers might be exposed if they try to renovate their homes. The recent popularity of flipping houses may have exposed many unsuspecting flippers to asbestos as they tore out wallboard, insulation, roofing, flooring, counter tops, ceilings, and even carpeting. Entirely new businesses have spouted up from entrepreneurs knowledgeable about the safe handling and removal of asbestos laden materials. But their high costs may deter people who are trying to make a profit by renovating an older home. Though the current market discourages flipping, the market for older, cheaper homes may begin to look better to people who can’t afford newer ones. They might be the unsuspecting victims of asbestos exposure if they try to upgrade their older home themselves.

There is a double-whammy here. Not only are they pulling out older, deteriorated materials that could easily release asbestos, but they will be installing newer replacements that also contain asbestos. Asbestos found in older homes shouldn’t pose a problem if the surfaces aren’t disturbed. But sanding down old walls for a new coat of paint may create a deadly dust. Pounding nails into a wall to hang pictures breaks the integrity of an asbestos-containing wall material (wallboard, plaster, paint) and risks airborne asbestos particles.

Gardening

One of life’s pleasures is gardening. Who could guess that some of the products used in an ordinary flowerbed could be deadly? Vermiculite is a common gardening product used to improve the soil. Vermiculite, by itself, isn’t the problem. But some vermiculite is contaminated with asbestos, which has been found in deposits close to where vermiculite is mined. The W. R. Grace mining company in Libby, Montana is a perfect example of a company that knowingly distributed contaminated vermiculite throughout the world, and did nothing to warn buyers, users, employees or the nearby community where employees lived. To lessen the risk of asbestos contamination, users are advised to dampen the vermiculite when using it. This will reduce the amount of dust that can become airborne and inhaled.

Older Products

If you happen to have any products in your home that were produced before the 1990s, such as crayons, hair dryers, talcum powder, older household appliances, these probably have asbestos in them. Those that generate heat most certainly do, as asbestos is both fire-retardant and insulative.

Imports

One last source for current uses of asbestos and personal asbestos exposure could be the many items we import from other countries. They don’t fall under the EPA and CPSC governance for manufacturing safety, and there don’t seem to be many restrictions on their import. It’s wise to use imported products with caution, and to avoid purchasing any that were manufactured in countries that have not yet banned asbestos use or at least have some strict controls over how it is used.

Exposure to asbestos can compromise your health. If you would like more information, please contact Brown | Gould | Kiely, LLP for a free consultation.