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RWolff 06-14-2013 01:27 PM

Asbestos resources Pt 1-3
The controversy surround asbestos is long standing and wide, with one camp stating they have worked with or around the material for years and never had a problem, while others take a 180 degree from that with a level of fear that rivals a nuclear power plant accident.

It is true, a certain percentage of people can supposedly be around asbestos for years and not show any outward signs of the health issues, while other people- another percentage- contracts cancers and other health issues from unknown causes while in their 20s, 30s and 40s.

The third percentage of the population- the majority, may or may not develop cancer or lung diseases from asbestos, or health problems from lead paint, coal dust, or any of the scores of chemicals and substances everyone is exposed to from birth. There is no test available to determine if a person is especially sensitive to asbestos, lead etc or if they are not, just as some smokers can smoke six packs of Marlboro filterless for 50 years and live to be 96, while others who never smoked in their lives get lung cancer in their 40s

There is no KNOWN safe level of exposure to asbestos, in theory ONE fiber could be the cause of a tumor later on.

What is it about asbestos that is dangerous?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral which was discovered to have great resistance to heat and chemicals, it was as a result incorporated in thousands of buildings products, components and articles used by people.
It can be found in linoleum floor tiles, pipe insulation, vermiculite attic insulation, old cementious materials and sheets and many others.
What is different about asbestos is the fact that under the microscope, the observer will see the mineral is made up of needle-like particles.

All six asbestos mineral types are known to be human carcinogens.
Chrysotile has been used more than any other type and accounts for about 95% of the asbestos found in buildings in America.

Chrysotile is more flexible than amphibole types of asbestos, and can be spun and woven into fabric. Its most common use has been in corrugated asbestos cement roof sheets typically used for outbuildings, warehouses and garages. It may also be found in sheets or panels used for ceilings and sometimes for walls and floors. Chrysotile has been a component in joint compound and some plasters. Numerous other items have been made containing chrysotile, including brake linings, fire barriers in fuseboxes, pipe insulation, floor tiles, roofing tars, felts, siding, and shingles, and rope seals for boilers.

The first documented death related to asbestos was in 1906. In the early 1900s researchers began to notice a large number of early deaths and lung problems in asbestos mining towns. The first diagnosis of asbestosis was made in the UK in 1924. By the 1930s, the UK regulated ventilation and made asbestosis an excusable work-related disease, followed by the U.S about ten years later. The term mesothelioma was first used in medical literature in 1931; its association with asbestos was first noted sometime in the 1940s.

Approximately 100,000 people in the United States have died, or are terminally ill, from asbestos exposure related to ship building. In the Hampton Roads area, a shipbuilding center, mesothelioma occurrence is seven times the national rate. Thousands of tons of asbestos were used in World War II ships to wrap the pipes, line the boilers, and cover engine and turbine parts. There were approximately 4.3 million shipyard workers in the United States during WWII; for every thousand workers about fourteen died of mesothelioma and an unknown number died from asbestosis.

The United States government and asbestos industry have been criticized for not acting quickly enough to inform the public of dangers, and to reduce public exposure. In the late 1970s court documents proved that asbestos industry officials knew of asbestos dangers since the 1930s and had concealed them from the public.
Through the 1970s, asbestos was used to fireproof roofing and flooring, for heat insulation, and for a variety of other purposes.

W.R. Grace's vermiculite mine was known for years to be contaminated by asbestos, vermiculte was packaged in bags and sold to consumers and contractors world-wide as a cheap attic insulation, the material contaminated rail stations, homes, businesses and more everywhere it was shipped and used. This company filed for bankruptcy when the asbestos litigation, cleanup and lawsuits began, and then reorganized and returned to business.

Fibers ultimately form because when these minerals originally cooled and crystallized, they formed by the polymeric molecules lining up parallel with each other and forming oriented crystal lattices. These crystals thus have three cleavage planes, and in this case, there are two cleavage planes which are much weaker than the third. When sufficient force is applied, they tend to break along their weakest directions, resulting in a linear fragmentation pattern and hence a fibrous form. This fracture process can keep occurring and one larger asbestos fiber can ultimately become the source of hundreds of much thinner and smaller fibers.


Identification and assessment
A fiber cannot be identified or ruled out as asbestos, either using the naked eye or by simply looking at a fiber under a regular microscope. Some older products may or may not contain asbestos, for example- not all linoleum floor tiles used it.

Asbestos exposure becomes an issue if asbestos containing materials become airborne, such as due to deterioration or damage. Building occupants may be exposed to asbestos, but those most at risk are persons who purposely disturb materials, such as maintenance/construction workers. Housekeeping/custodial employees may be at increased risk as they may potentially clean up damaged or deteriorated asbestos containing materials without knowing that the material contains asbestos. Asbestos abatement/remediation workers and emergency personnel such as firefighters may also become exposed. Asbestos-related diseases have been diagnosed in asbestos workers' family members, and in residents who live close to asbestos mines or processing plants.


History of health concerns and regulation
By the first century AD, Greeks and Romans are claimed to have observed that slaves involved in the weaving of asbestos cloth were afflicted with a sickness of the lungs.
Early concern in the modern era on the health effects of asbestos exposure can be found in several sources. Among the earliest were reports in Britain. The annual reports of the Chief Inspector of Factories reported as early as 1898 that asbestos had "easily demonstrated" health risks.

At about the same time, what was probably the first study of mortality among asbestos workers was reported in France. While the study describes the cause of death as chalicosis, a generalized pneumoconiosis, the circumstances of the employment of the fifty workers whose death prompted the study suggest that the root cause was asbestos or mixed asbestos-cotton dust exposure.

London doctor H. Montague Murray conducted a post mortem exam on a young asbestos factory worker who died in 1899. Dr. Murray gave testimony on this death in connection with an industrial disease compensation hearing. The post-mortem confirmed the presence of asbestos in the lung tissue, prompting Dr. Murray to express as an expert opinion his belief that the inhalation of asbestos dust had at least contributed to, if not actually caused, the death of the worker.
Widespread recognition of the occupational risks of asbestos in Britain was reported in 1924 by a Dr. Cooke, a pathologist, who introduced a case description of a 33-year-old female asbestos worker, Nellie Kershaw, with the following: "Medical men in areas where asbestos is manufactured have long suspected the dust to be the cause of chronic bronchitis and fibrosis ..." Dr. Cooke then went on to report on a case in 1927 involving a 33-year-old male worker who was the only survivor out of ten workers in an asbestos carding room. In the report he named the disease "asbestosis".

Dr. Cooke's second case report was followed, in the late 1920s, by a large public health investigation (now known as the Merewether report after one of its two authors) that examined some 360 asbestos-textile workers (reported to be about 15% of the total comparable employment in Britain at the time) and found that about a quarter of them suffered from pulmonary fibrosis.

Female operator Clemance Gagnon watches a machine carding asbestos fiber for spinning and processing at the Johns-Manville factory.


Harry Rowed. National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque. Library and Archives Canada, PA-115069 /

RWolff 06-14-2013 01:33 PM

Pt 2
Pt 2


Scandals, lawsuits, Owens-Corning, Johns-Manville, W.R Grace
In 1933, Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. doctors found that 29% of workers in a Johns-Manville plant had asbestosis. Likewise, in 1933, Johns-Manville officials settled lawsuits by 11 employees with asbestosis on the condition that the employees' lawyer agree to never again "directly or indirectly participate in the bringing of new actions against the Corporation."

In 1934, officials of two large asbestos companies, Johns-Manville and Raybestos-Manhattan, edited an article about the diseases of asbestos workers written by a Metropolitan Life Insurance Company doctor. The changes downplayed the danger of asbestos dust. In 1935, officials of Johns-Manville and Raybestos-Manhattan instructed the editor of Asbestos magazine to publish nothing about asbestosis. In 1936, a group of asbestos companies agreed to sponsor research on the health effects of asbestos dust, but required that the companies maintain complete control over the disclosure of the results.

In 1942, an internal Owens-Corning corporate memo referred to "medical literature on asbestosis ... scores of publications in which the lung and skin hazards of asbestos are discussed." Testimony given in a federal court in 1984 by Charles H. Roemer, formerly an employee of Unarco, described a meeting in the early 1940s between Unarco officials, J-M President Lewis H. Brown and J-M attorney Vandiver Brown. Roemer stated, "I'll never forget, I turned to Mr. Brown, one of the Browns made this crack (that Unarco managers were a bunch of fools for notifying employees who had asbestosis), and I said, 'Mr. Brown, do you mean to tell me you would let them work until they dropped dead?' He said, 'Yes. We save a lot of money that way.'

In 1951, asbestos companies removed all references to cancer before allowing publication of research they sponsored. In 1952, Dr. Kenneth Smith, Johns-Manville medical director, recommended (unsuccessfully) that warning labels be attached to products containing asbestos. Later, Smith testified: "It was a business decision as far as I could understand ... the corporation is in business to provide jobs for people and make money for stockholders and they had to take into consideration the effects of everything they did and if the application of a caution label identifying a product as hazardous would cut into sales, there would be serious financial implications."

One vermiculite mine operated by W. R. Grace and Company in Libby, Montana exposed workers and community residents to danger by mining vermiculite contaminated with asbestos, typically actinolite or tremolite. Vermiculite contaminated with asbestos from the Libby mine was used as insulation in residential and commercial buildings through Canada and the United States. W. R. Grace and Company's vermiculite was marketed as Zonolite.
In 1999 the EPA began cleanup efforts in Libby and now the area is a Superfund cleanup area. The EPA has determined that harmful asbestos is released from the mine as well as through other activities that disturb soil in the area

W. R. Grace and Company has been involved in a number of controversial incidents of proven and alleged corporate crimes, including exposing workers and residents of an entire town to asbestos contamination in Libby and Troy, Montana, water contamination in Woburn, Massachusetts, and an Acton, Massachusetts, Superfund site.

While Grace no longer makes asbestos-related products, W. R. Grace and Company has faced more than 270,000 asbestos-related lawsuits. 150,000 lawsuits have been settled or dismissed and 120,000 remain.

After asbestos injury claims unexpectedly nearly doubled in 2000, W. R. Grace & Company filed for bankruptcy protection in 2001. The United States Department of Justice alleged that Grace had transferred 4 to 5 billion dollars to daughter companies that it had recently purchased, shortly before declaring bankruptcy. Justice Department attorneys alleged that this amounted to a fraudulent transfer of money in order to protect Grace from civil suits related to asbestos. The bankruptcy court ordered the companies to return nearly $1 billion to Grace, which will remain as part of the assets to consider in the bankruptcy hearings.

In 2005, the U.S. Department of Justice began criminal proceedings against W.R. Grace. On February 7, 2005, the department announced that a grand jury in Montana indicted W.R. Grace and seven current and former Grace executives for knowingly endangering residents of Libby, Montana, and concealing information about the health effects of its asbestos mining operations. According to the indictment, W. R. Grace and its executives, as far back as the 1970s, attempted to conceal information about the adverse health effects of the company’s vermiculite mining operations and distribution of vermiculite in the Libby, Montana, community. The defendants are also accused of obstructing the government’s cleanup efforts and wire fraud. To date, according to the indictment, approximately 1,200 residents of Libby area have been identified as suffering from some kind of asbestos-related abnormality.

The criminal trial began in February 2009 after years of pretrial proceedings which reached the United States Supreme Court. By the time the trial was set to begin, one of the defendants, Alan Stringer, had died of cancer. David Uhlmann, a former top environmental crimes prosecutor has been quoted as saying about W.R. Grace & Co.: "There's never been a case where so many people were sickened or killed by environmental crime." The W.R. Grace case long festered in the court system on a 10-count indictment including charges of wire fraud and obstruction of justice. W.R. Grace has voluntarily paid millions of dollars in medical bills for 900 Libby residents.

The Zonolite brand of vermiculite was mined and processed by W.R. Grace Inc. as insulation material, sold to homeowners during the '70s and '80s. Zonolite vermiculite was packed in bags so consumers could pour it out into openings in between joists in the attics of homes after construction. The main ingredient of Zonolite is vermiculite, a naturally occurring mineral found in and around Libby. Vermiculite has exfoliation properties, meaning that it can expand to several times its original volume after being heated. This property results in vermiculite expanding to block any airflow directly around the heated area, effectively trapping the heat inside. Despite the generally positive and safe properties of vermiculite minerals, the supply of vermiculite that was mined in Libby was often contaminated with an uncommon yet incredibly dangerous form of asbestos fiber known as tremolite

Earl Lovick knew the form of asbestos in Zonolite's mine was called tremolite, a straighter fiber than the commercial forms of asbestos usually available to the public. He knew where in the plant the asbestos dust was leaking, and that over a third of the miners who worked at W.R. Grace in Libby were developing lung problems. He felt that employees were aware of the risks without being told, and that with respirator masks were safe.

Other tactics were used over the years to cover up essential details of health risks, such as the state of Montana conducting most of their routine air quality inspections during rainy weather of while the mill wasn't operating. In other cases the evidence was literally covered up; such as Libby's high school track originally built with tremolite mine tailings was later paved over with asphalt in 1982 (Fritz, Cascadia Times).


Worksafe BC (a Canadian version of OSHA)
Asbestos is a tough, heat-resistant mineral that was added to the building materials of many older homes. It can pose health hazards to workers and homeowners who renovate or demolish those homes. This animation shows how asbestos fibres could damage lung tissue and lead to lung disease

Dangers of Asbestos - What Is Asbestosis ?

Working safely with asbestos - for the home renovator

Regular "dust masks" are not enough to prevent breathing in the microscopic fibers.
Do not sweep , use a shop vac or vacuum cleaner to clean up asbestos debris, the filters are NOT fine enough to trap the microscopic fibers and they force them out the exhaust into the room air.

Map ofvermiculite insulation processing plants W.R. Grace Co.

RWolff 06-14-2013 01:33 PM

Pt 3
Pt 3
Studies have linked more than a dozen different diseases to asbestos exposure. Many of these diseases, such as mesothelioma and lung cancer, have a confirmed relationship with asbestos. Others, such as COPD and kidney cancer, are not directly caused by asbestos, but researchers suspect that exposure can increase the risk for developing them.

Asbestos-related diseases can range from mild and benign to malignant and life-threatening. Malignant diseases tend to be less common than benign illnesses, yet some of the benign conditions are just as serious as an asbestos-related cancer. Asbestosis – a benign illness – led to more deaths per year between 1999 and 2001 than asbestos-induced gastrointestinal cancer did during the same time frame.

Not everyone who is exposed to asbestos will get one of these diseases. However, exposure does increase a person’s lifelong risk the developing one or more of these conditions. This elevated risk lasts for decades after exposure.
Even though asbestos is only responsible for a small portion of all lung cancer diagnoses, lung cancer is still one of the most fatal asbestos-related malignancies. It claims upwards of 3,200 lives each year in the United States.
Researchers confirmed the link between asbestos exposure and ovarian cancer in 2009. The fibers – which have repeatedly been found in the ovaries of asbestos-exposed women – may reach the organs via the bloodstream, lymph system or reproductive tract.

Read more:

Heather Von St. James never handled or worked with asbestos. Yet at 36 years old she was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos in the lining of the lung. She and her doctor believe her asbestos contamination came from her father's work jacket

See Google for: W.R. Grace + Libby Mt asbestos contamination for the complete back story.

PBS documentary
In the small town of Libby, many hundreds of people are sick or have already died from asbestos exposure.

What is unsettling is all of these companies are still in business today- Owens-Corning, Johns-Manville, W.R. Grace, the first two sell fiberglass insulation which they claim is "safe," but REMEMBER- these are the very same companies outlined in the scandals and lawsuits section above for covering up known hazzards to workers and residents, editing research articles in THEIR favor etc!
We're to believe they did a 180 now and are concerned about our health suddenly?

Windows on Wash 06-14-2013 05:00 PM

Nice posts RWolff.

Should be made into a sticky.

RWolff 06-14-2013 06:59 PM

A few examples of where asbestos can be found, some surprising:

Oven mitts

Interior and exterior walls, ceiling panels, siding, by Hardie's ( I assume the same company that today makes tile backer board)

Lamp cords and wires:

Insoles for shoes, 1885 and 1915 ads found

Patent found for an asbestos and canvas insole to be worn with shoes or other footwear. United Kingdom Patent GB124370;
Aug. 21, 1918. Socks.-A loose sock a is provided with a toe cap band is made of asbestos faced on both sides with canvas.

In paint too (besides lead) 1882 ad for asbestos wall and trim paints:

Xmas tree artificial snow, sprinkle under your tree for that indoor snowstorm look, ad from 1931;

Vinyl floor tile
Johns-Manville vinyl floor tile sample pack, choose your asbestos tile color and pattern

roofingquotes 06-16-2013 10:00 PM

This is a great resource for asbestos. Thanks a lot for posting. This issue has been long disputed. And a few people knew about the harm it brings. Thanks a lot. :)

Maintenance 6 06-17-2013 11:02 AM

That is a great outline of asbestos history and health concerns. It covers as much in 2 pages as the 20+ pages in the asbestos training manual. One thing that many people are mistaken about is the status of asbestos in the U.S. today. Many people are under the impression that asbestos is banned from products in the U.S., which is far from true. The U.S. EPA initiated bans on it from certain products beginning in the mid 1970s, but most rulings were overturned the courts. Many manufacturers removed asbestos from their products voluntarily in about 1982, but in only a few products was asbestos succesfully banned. They are: Corrugated paper, Rollboard, Commercial paper, Specialty paper and Flooring felt. Later bans included spray-on fire proofing under most conditions. Products that are still allowed to contain asbestos include:
Cement corrugated sheet
Cement flat sheet
Pipeline wrap
Roofing felt
Vinyl floor tile
Cement shingle
Cement pipe
Automatic transmission components
Clutch facings
Friction materials
Disk brake pads
Drum brake linings
Brake blocks
Non-roofing coatings
Roof coatings

Another one not on the list is high temperature wire insulation. Like the type used in stoves, furnaces and kilns.
The U.S. continues to import asbestos by multiple tons each year. Additionally, there is no known method that tracks how much is imported in finished products from other countries. Think about Chinese drywall or Lead paint on Chinese made toys and then you'll get my drift.

Great Post!

RWolff 06-17-2013 12:57 PM

Thank you!
I did try to include a lot without making it terribly long, it's a starting point for people with questions and concerns to work with.


Many people are under the impression that asbestos is banned from products in the U.S., which is far from true
You are absolutely correct there, there are still many products that contain asbestos- the brake shoes and clutch facings are two that come to my mind.
I would be less concerned about roofing tar namely because of what tar is, a sticky, gooey adhesive liquid that is unlikely to release fibers, unless it's burned in a house fire.
What surprised me in researching to find the images for the products, was seeing it in house paint! Spackle and plasters are another surprise, absolutely horrible knowing people normally SAND that stuff a lot on walls and the dust gets everywhere.
WIth the junk coming from China these days, you have no guarantee the spackle or drywall compound you buy is asbestos free if made in China.

Frankly there were probably 100 more images of different products I could have included- ironing board covers, toaster plates, and more, but it was too much to really include and the selection I did include helps give the idea to start with.
A lot of the products are outdated, but that doesn't mean they can't be found in the attic, second hand/antique stores, or on your walls etc as the case may be.


Another one not on the list is high temperature wire insulation
One of the images I posted has a picture of a wire display, one of two that were normally displayed in hardware stores, it did include heater/toaster cord etc at least.


This is a great resource for asbestos. Thanks a lot for posting. This issue has been long disputed. And a few people knew about the harm it brings.
The scandals are what really pisses me off the most, not that the product is dangerous but that these companies KNEW IT WAS for many years and took proactive measures to cover that up and hide it from the public! This to the extent of controlling the results of studies they paid for, and ordering editors to not print anything negative, it's outrageous and criminal, it also shows just exactly how much we should TRUST them today on products we buy now such as fiberglass insulation, plastics, plastics used to wrap and contain food, food additives, pesticides, bug sprays, sunblock, etc etc.

Maintenance 6 06-17-2013 03:16 PM

The drywall/drywall compound surprised me too until we abated 160 apartments built in the late 1960s that tested positive. Plaster is hit or miss. Decorative plaster features are more likely than flat walls. Could be a regional thing. Popcorn ceilings very often contain asbestos and are very friable in some cases. Another one that I've seen was caulking compound in some old buildings. The windows had been replaced in the 1950s, and had been caulked in. It was rock hard and a real b#tch to clean off, but in some areas was crumbling, so it was friable. I've seen paint test positive on insulation jacket coatings, never anywhere else.

RWolff 07-28-2013 11:58 AM

The late Steve McQueen the actor was diagnosed with mesothelioma, an often fatal form of cancer related to asbestos exposure. As in most cases, a tumor was discovered on the outside lining of a lung, and spread to other areas of the body.

Although McQueen had been a heavy smoker as well, which may or may not have been a contributing factor, mesothelioma itself is not a smoking-related lung disease.

McQueen himself points to two likely sources, including the time when he took part in replacing asbestos-based insulation in the ship's engine room during his stint in the Marines. And that he could also have been exposed in his years as a film star, since sound stage insulation had also been made of asbestos.

Maintenance 6 08-01-2013 11:22 AM

And McQueen was discharged from the Marines in 1950. He died in 1980, giving you an idea of the possible latency period for the disease to appear. Those who smoke are several times more likely to experience an asbestos related disease because the tar that accumulates in the lungs can catch asbestos fibers and prevent their release through normal respiration. Not all fibers that are inhaled stay in the lungs.

RWolff 08-01-2013 08:26 PM


Originally Posted by Maintenance 6 (Post 1223726)
And McQueen was discharged from the Marines in 1950. He died in 1980, giving you an idea of the possible latency period for the disease to appear.

That's true, but since no one knows how susceptable they might be, any exposure is dangerous.
It's like the 3 pack a day smoker who lives to be 102 while someone else in their 30s dies of lung cancer from second hand smoke living in a house with heavy smokers.
If Steve was 20 on the ship and it took 30 years to get the cancer, he would be only 50, on the other hand if he was 70 and was remodelling his house and breathed in all kinds of asbestos, chances are good he'll be dead in 5-10 years anyway from heart disease or prostate cancer and it won't matter.
Someone younger than 40 or 50 needs to stay away from all asbestos, someone in their 60s and 70s it doesn't matter, unless they just happen to be one of the unlucky more susceptable persons, there is NO test to determine this one way or the other.

McQueen had more exposures than just in the Marines, the sound stages he worked on acting had asbestos, and his acting careen asbestos exposure was more recent and more frequent than his one time exposure in the marines. There's no way of know which exposure did it, could have been any or all of them.

On the other hand, in today's news:

Sean Franklin Sasser passed away early this evening, August 7, 2013. Having lived for 25 years with HIV, at the age of 44, Sean died after a short but difficult battle with Mesothelioma."

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