Asbestos products are items that contain asbestos, or are made from materials which contain asbestos. Asbestos-containing products were used in ship-building, metal works, chemical plants, power plants, automobile factors, and many other industries. Asbestos products were manufactured in a large number of factories, and machine parts containing asbestos were present in thousands more.
Asbestos is a ubiquitous substance in manufactured products for several reasons. Asbestos is freely available, being present in a large proportion of the Earth’s crust. The substance has high tensile strength, and is physically and chemically inert. It is heat-resistant and flame retardant. Asbestos is also very inexpensive to mine and use in manufacturing. For all of these reasons, thousands of different types of products manufactured prior to the 1980s contain asbestos.
Asbestos products include an enormous variety of construction materials. Commonly used construction products containing asbestos include asbestos ceiling treatments, asbestos tiles for floors, walls, and roofs, asbestos popcorn ceiling and textured wall treatments, cement products, pipes, insulation, caulks, and even tape. In fact, so many types of construction products manufactured prior to the 1980s contained asbestos that these days it is safest to assume the substance is present in any material dating to that period.
In addition to construction materials, other products that may contain asbestos include friction-bearing machine parts, brake pads and liners in cars and other vehicles, and small appliances such as hair dryers, toasters, and popcorn makers. Fire-resistant protective fabric was commonly made with asbestos. The fabric was used for protective gloves, aprons, curtains, and other items of clothing and draperies, and had many industrial uses.
All of these asbestos products, and many more containing asbestos, are now considered to be dangerous. The strength and inertia of asbestos are, unfortunately, two of the qualities that make it hazardous to health. Asbestos fibers, when inhaled, can cause a rapidly-spreading and incurable cancer called mesothelioma, and has also been implicated in lung cancer as well. Heavy exposure to asbestos over time also causes asbestosis, a chronic inflammatory lung disease.
The high level of use of asbestos products means that the majority of homes built before the 1980s contain some asbestos. Even if homes were built in this period without the use of asbestos materials, the substance is still likely to be present if any remodeling took place. Asbestos-containing materials are still present in large amounts in older industrial buildings. Worldwide, millions of people have been exposed to asbestos as a result of the widespread use of the substance.