Asbestos awareness is very important when it comes to any construction of your home. Any object containing asbestos is dangerous if handled improperly. It can act as a safe surface and protect a building for many years if left alone. The danger comes when asbestos materials are moved or broken. The microscopic asbestos fibers become airborne and enter the lungs when they are broken. Because of this, one needs to know what to do about asbestos.
What Is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a mineral that occurs naturally. It contains soft and flexible fibers that resist heat, electricity, and corrosion. Because of this, asbestos-infused objects are very useful sometimes. They work well as an insulating material, so manufacturers put them in paper, cement, cloth, plastic, and other materials to strengthen them.
Ingesting them is dangerous, as the fibers get trapped in the body permanently, which is why asbestos awareness is so important. Over the years, it causes inflammation and genetic damage. This can cause a rare cancer called mesothelioma and other forms of cancer, like lung disease, ovarian cancer, and laryngeal cancer. Asbestos-related illnesses are usually fatal.
History of Asbestos in Roofing
Inventors began experimenting with asbestos in the late 1800s. In 1893, a European chemist named Ludwig Hatschek purchased an asbestos factory and by 1900 invented asbestos cement. He could then patent the product in 1901, naming it Eternit from the word “aetemitas,” which means everlasting. He then patented making asbestos shingles which were made from asbestos fibers and hydraulic cement.
The tiles were rigid, durable, and fireproof and resisted warping and bug damage. This made asbestos shingles far superior to non-asbestos shingles which were made from slate or clay. They were also cheaper, making it easy for consumers to choose asbestos over regular roofing tiles. It then took off as a roofing product in the early 1900s because initial roofing products were quite dangerous. Wood was flammable, concrete was cumbersome, and metal rusted out. By 1907, asbestos became a prime roofing material additive for making shingles based on an asbestos-asphalt blend. Shingle factories sprang up across the States.
For the next seven decades, asbestos roofing products covered America.
Asbestos Use in Roofing Products
It seemed smart to add asbestos to roofing products for many reasons. First, adding asbestos fibers into the petroleum asphalt mixture cured the fire problem. Shingles containing asbestos were inflammable, and that was highly popular with many.
Adding asbestos to roofing had other advantages, too. It is lightweight, which solved structural issues for heavy roof loads. It also made asphalt-based roofing durable and long-lasting. Additionally, asbestos won’t rot, rust, conduct electricity, or react to heat.
Shingles weren’t the only roof product containing asbestos materials. In fact, most other roofing products produced in the early to mid-twentieth century contained asbestos. They considered it a universal solution to roof concerns. The asbestos also found its way into roofing tar, roofing felt and underlayment, roofing caulking and sealing, and roof flashings and vents.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), along with the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) were both aware of how dangerous exposure to airborne asbestos fibers is to roofing employees and installation workers. The 1989 Asbestos Ban and Phase-Out Rule put an end to filling roofing products with deadly asbestos fibers that caused diseases like mesothelioma and started the U.S. on a path to asbestos awareness.
Why Are Asbestos Dangerous?
Like we said previously, the danger with asbestos roofing or other products occurs when someone moves or breaks them. Then, the microscopic asbestos fibers become airborne and enter the lungs. They can also come into contact with sin and eventually find their way into the body.
Asbestos fibers impale the mesothelium, and an exposed worker cannot exhale them. They stay in the mesothelium forever and became abrasive or irritant. This was especially so with amphibole asbestos fibers. Over time, scar tissue formed around these tiny asbestos particles and eventually become cancerous tumors called mesothelioma.
Thousands of American workers suffered from mesothelioma after being exposed to airborne asbestos fibers when working with roofing products containing asbestos. Many currently have the disease or are in the development process because there’s a 10 to 50 year latency period before asbestos fiber exposure turns cancerous.
The only cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos fibers. The risk of developing mesothelioma depends on the type of asbestos, the amount of exposure, and the time the person was exposed.
How Do You Know If Your Roof Tiles Have Asbestos?
If any of the following applies to your roof, you probably have asbestos roof tiles:
- The manufacturing date was prior to the 1980s.
- Your roof includes mastic or bitumen-based pressed metal tiles.
If you still have the label for your roofing tiles, check it. Labels provide clear, accurate, and adequate information about the product and will inform you if they were made with asbestos.
Companies that manufactured asbestos roofing materials include:
- G.W. Berkheimer Company, Inc.
- Barrett Roofing Company
- Bird and Son
- Fibreboard Corporation
- Flintkote Company
- Johns Manville Corporation
- National Gypsum Company
- Atlantic Asphalt & Asbestos Company
- Rutland Fire Clay Company
- Keasby & Mattison Company
This is not an exhaustive list. It’s still best to speak with a roofing professional to learn more. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
So What Do I Do If I Have Asbestos Roof Tiles?
If asbestos is not airborne, it is not dangerous. Most interior home products containing asbestos should have the asbestos encapsulated. This means it is surrounded by a coating of something that prevents it from becoming airborne. As long as your roof and siding materials are in good condition, you should be safe. The EPA recommends you do not disturb asbestos if possible.
Even though asbestos home materials are durable, they eventually wear down and need replacement. If asbestos roofing and siding materials are damaged, cracked, or broken, they become dangerous. Siding, in particular, has a tendency to break faster than roofing tiles.
If any of the materials in your house have asbestos in them, monitor them for signs of wear and tear. A roofing company will advise you on the state of your roof.
Safe Removal of Asbestos Roofing
Safe removal of asbestos roofing is possible, but we recommend that you let a professional handle it. Professionals are experts in asbestos awareness. They will seal or cover the asbestos material to make sure they release none of the fibers into the air. Sealing means treating the material with a sealant. This sealant binds the asbestos fibers together and coats the material. Covering means putting a protective jacket around the asbestos-containing material. This prevents the release of harmful fibers.
Again, make sure you are letting a professional handle any asbestos-containing materials on your roof. It is important that you have some knowledge of asbestos awareness before touching anything. Call us at 636-699-0449 today so we can help you get rid of those dangerous roofing materials.