Education

How Is Asbestos Used Today?

posted by Chris Valentine

We mostly think of asbestos as an outdated mineral that once wreaked havoc on industrial workers’ bodies but is no longer a threat.

What many people don’t know is that not only is asbestos still around, but there may be asbestos used in their workplace every day.

The EPA banned specific uses of asbestos in 1973. But in 1991, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned previous bans.

Asbestos is back, and here’s where you can find it.

How is Asbestos Used? Four Ways

Are you wary of the ways asbestos is used? According to an asbestos report, you should be, mainly if you work with these materials.

1. Insulation

Despite all the advancements in insulation, the EPA still allows companies to use up to 1 percent of asbestos as part of their insulation manufacturing.

Modern insulation combined with new building methods means that you are very unlikely to face exposure to it when living in your home. However, the company installing your insulation needs to wear protective clothing. And you need to be aware of the make-up of your insulation in case you do any DIY projects.

2. Vehicle Parts

Planes, trains, and automobiles can all contain asbestos in various parts.

Usually, asbestos turns up in places like clutches and brake pads where it serves the purpose of protecting the part from heat or fire. That’s why you’ll also see it in use #4.

3. Potting Soils

Your potting soil doesn’t intentionally include asbestos. No magical property found in asbestos causes your plants to grow. Instead, when potting soils include vermiculite, a mineral from a mine in Montana, then it risks asbestos contamination.

Vermiculite isn’t asbestos, but large deposits of it typically occur very near asbestos mineral deposits. Cross-contamination at any point in the production line can put trace amounts of asbestos in your potting soil.

Fortunately, few products continue to use vermiculite, but you should check your potting soil’s ingredients list just in case.

4. Fireproof Materials

One of the reasons asbestos pops up in vehicle parts is its ability to ward off heat and flames. For the same reason, it’s also available in specially-ordered fireproof clothing.

You can order these clothing, like gloves or mitts, through specialist providers, and you generally won’t wear any of the garments without also wearing the proper protection.

Why Isn’t Asbestos Banned?

Asbestos is legal in the U.S, but companies no longer mine it. Instead, they import both raw asbestos and related products.

How did this happen given the dangers?

Both the asbestos industry and foreign governments lobbied the U.S.government to avoid banning asbestos entirely. Overwhelmed with 100,000 pages of evidence of the dangers of asbestos, the EPA persevered and banned over 90 percent of the sources of asbestos.

However, the asbestos industry sued the EPA, and the court threw out most parts of the EPA’s rule. Why? Because the industry argued that asbestos alternatives were not safer, and thus, the court found there was no need for the ban.

Asbestos is Still Among Us

Even though exposure in any amount can cause illness and death, Americans may encounter asbestos every day. It may be in your car, your walls, and it’s even hanging in your local fire station.

Ready for more weird facts? Check out the weird ways people made money throughout history.

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