Asbestos was a common insulation ingredient for decades until safety and health regulations forced it off the market. Block insulation was often used when surfaces reached extremely high heat, and the equipment and those working around it needed protection. Unfortunately, asbestos fibers in block insulation caused chronic diseases and fatal cancers to many exposed to them.
If you are diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease or a family member died because of one, you may be entitled to compensation for what you’ve endured. Learn about your legal rights by calling Satterley & Kelley, PLLC, at 855-385-9532 today.
What is Asbestos-Containing Block Insulation?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fiber widely used in various construction and industrial applications due to its heat resistance, strength, and insulating properties. However, asbestos fibers also pose serious health risks when they become airborne and are inhaled or ingested, as they can lead to lung diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.
Asbestos-containing block insulation was commonly used to insulate walls, ceilings, pipes, and other surfaces in buildings, industrial facilities, and ships. They could be on boilers, furnaces, and pipes.
Asbestos fibers were mixed with other materials to create a block-like form that could be easily shaped, installed, and provide thermal insulation. These blocks were often found in older buildings, especially those constructed before the health risks of asbestos were widely publicized.
Why was Asbestos Used in Block Insulation?
Block insulation contained asbestos primarily because of its unique combination of properties. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that has several characteristics that make it attractive for industrial and construction applications:
- Heat Resistance: Asbestos fibers can withstand high temperatures without significant degradation. This property made asbestos an excellent choice for insulating materials used in applications with high heat, such as industrial furnaces, steam pipes, and boilers.
- Fire Resistance: Asbestos is highly fire-resistant, which makes it a good material for insulating buildings and equipment
- Durability and Longevity: Asbestos fibers are strong and durable, allowing insulation materials made with asbestos to have a longer lifespan compared to other materials, making it less expensive over time
- Chemical Resistance: Asbestos was resistant to chemical corrosion, making it suitable for use in environments where exposure to certain chemicals was an issue
Block insulation was just one of thousands of asbestos-containing products in industrial, commercial, and residential buildings. It was also used in commercial ships, vehicles, trains, aircraft, and even spacecraft.
How Was Block Insulation Installed?
How this product was used, repaired, and removed made it dangerous. It resulted in releasing asbestos fibers, exposing everyone in the area. Breathing in and swallowing them was the first step to disabling and fatal conditions.
- Preparation: The surface to be insulated, such as pipes, boilers, furnaces, or structural components, was cleaned and prepared for the insulation installation.
- Cutting and Shaping: Asbestos-containing block insulation came in pre-formed blocks or sheets that contained a mixture of asbestos fibers, binders, and other materials. These blocks could be easily cut and shaped to fit the contours of the surfaces they were intended to insulate. Standard tools like saws and knives were used for this purpose.
- Fitting and Installation: The cut blocks were then fitted onto the surfaces to be insulated and attached with asbestos-containing mastics or cement or physically attached with fasteners or wires
- Applying Protective Coverings: Protective coverings, such as metal jackets or cladding, were added over the asbestos-containing insulation to safeguard it from mechanical damage, weathering, and potential degradation
- Maintenance: Asbestos-containing block insulation required periodic maintenance to ensure its effectiveness and structural integrity. Over time the insulation material could degrade or become damaged, releasing asbestos fibers into the air. If the block insulation covered something that needed to be maintained, repaired, or replaced, block insulation may be removed or torn off the equipment
Before the dangers of asbestos became well-known, those working with block insulation usually didn’t wear any protective equipment to prevent or limit how much asbestos got into their bodies.
Why is Asbestos Dangerous?
Asbestos’ microscopic fibers, when released into the air and inhaled or swallowed, can pose serious health risks. The primary reasons why include:
- Easily Inhaled or Swallowed: Asbestos fibers are tiny and lightweight, so they’re easily airborne. When people breathe in these fibers, they can become trapped in the lungs and other parts of the respiratory system. When the fibers get into the mouth and are ingested, they threaten the digestive system, abdominal organs, and the abdomen’s lining
- Health Effects: Prolonged or repeated exposure to asbestos fibers can lead to various severe health conditions, including asbestos (a chronic lung disease causing breathing difficulties, coughing, and reduced lung function), lung cancer (those who smoked have a particularly high risk), mesothelioma (a rare and aggressive cancer that primarily affects the lining of the lungs (pleura) or the abdominal cavity (peritoneum)), and other cancers
- Long Latency Period: Asbestos’ health effects often take years or decades to develop
- Fiber Durability: Asbestos fibers in the body can remain for a long time, possibly for a person’s lifetime, causing continued health risks after initial exposure ceases
- There’s No Safe Exposure Threshold: There is no known safe level of asbestos exposure. Even small amounts over time can potentially lead to health issues
- Secondary Exposure: People who come into contact with asbestos-exposed individuals or environments (such as asbestos workers’ family members) can also be at risk, as fibers can be carried on clothing, skin, and hair
Compared to the period of asbestos’ peak use (Industrial Revolution through the 1970s), few new products contain asbestos for sale. Current exposure to asbestos-containing block insulation is most likely if you’re in an older industrial or commercial building where abatement hasn’t occurred.
Have an Asbestos-Related Disease? Call Us Today For A Free Consultation
We are your boots on the ground if you or someone you love suffers from mesothelioma or an asbestos-related illness due to exposure to block insulation. To call our Louisville office, call 855-385-9532. You may also complete our contact form for a free initial consultation.