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Asbestos Uses

Uses of Asbestos

Asbestos is strong, fire-resistant, flexible and a good thermal insulator. These qualities encouraged its use in a variety of products. It is used for thermal insulation, fire proofing, acoustic insulation, roofing, flooring and in a variety of other building materials.

People are known to have uses asbestos materials for over a thousand years. However its use became much more from the early 1900’s onwards since which time it has been used in thousands of construction, industrial, maritime and consumer products.

Asbestos-containing products include:- 

Building and construction materials:

(asbestos cement pipe, insulating cement, insulating block, pipe covering, acoustical panels/plaster, fire brick, vinyl-asbestos and asphalt-asbestos floor tile, linoleum backing, ceiling tile, duct insulation for heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, roofing felt, transite furnace flue, transite shingles and sidings, insulated electrical wire and panels, fireproofing spray, fire door interiors, refractory and boiler insulation materials)

Textiles (e.g. asbestos cloth in fireproof aprons, glassblower mitts)

Caulking compounds and panes (mastics, adhesives, coatings, joint compound, putty, acoustical textures)

Friction products (brake linings, clutch assemblies and gaskets).

Some of these products contained a very high proportion of asbestos, while others contained only small amounts.

These asbestos materials were widely used in the UK in industrial sites, homes, schools, shipyards and commercial buildings until the late 1960’s when health dangers associated with their use became more widely known. A lot of asbestos material was then removed from the 1970’s onwards. This involved further exposure of workers to asbestos as they removed the materials from old buildings.

Trades Involving Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos-containing products have been widely used, in one form or another, across a range of industries including shipbuilding and repair, railways, building construction and maintenance, power stations, steelworks, and motor vehicle industries.

As a consequence people from a wide range of occupations may have been exposed to airborne asbestos fibres :

  • asbestos factory employees
  • aerospace workers
  • automobile mechanics
  • boilermakers
  • boilermen
  • bricklayers
  • carpenters
  • coal miners
  • construction workers
  • dockers
  • electricians
  • general builders
  • insulation engineer
  • iron workers
  • lab technicians
  • laggers
  • merchant navy cadets
  • merchant navy deck officers
  • non-asbestos factory employees
  • plasterers
  • plumbers
  • refractory bricklayers in power stations
  • window fitters
  • sheet metal workers
  • shipyard workers
  • steam fitters
  • tile setters
  • turbine/boiler operators in power stations
  • welders
  • Workers in old buildings can also be exposed to asbestos used in the construction materials

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