Are Your Window Panels Hiding Deadly Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fibre that has been damaging human lungs for thousands of years. Some of the earliest records depict the mineral being mined in Ancient Egypt. The powerful fibres were used when weaving shrouds to covering dead bodies. It was also worked in pottery, lamps, and candles. The potential dangers were recognized as early as the 1st century by Pliny the Elder, a well-known Roman scholar.
Why Was Asbestos So Popular?
It may seem odd that asbestos became so popular when even the Romans could implicate it in some illnesses. Unfortunately, the benefits of using asbestos far outweighed the very small minority that claimed it was dangerous. Asbestos was a sort of "miracle fibre" without any real alternative at the time. Its major benefits included:
- Extreme heat and chemical resistance
- High durability in extreme weather conditions
- Excellent at insulating heat and acoustics
These benefits made asbestos so popular that it was commonplace in most building supplies by the middle of the 20th century. Asbestos additives were added to concrete to create smooth pipes that were resistant to heat, chemical, and electrical dangers. It was used in a loose form to insulate floors, attics, and the gaps inside of walls. Special boards known as Asbestos Insulation Boards(AIB) were manufactured in massive numbers to be used inside homes and buildings all around the world.
The most dangerous forms of asbestos were banned in the UK during the 1980s. However, white asbestos, which was by far the most common, was still used regularly until 1999. The final ban on white asbestos helped stop the spread of the problem, but it did nothing to eliminate the existing problem.
There are still many buildings and homes throughout the UK that contain asbestos. It may not present any danger when undisturbed, but if moved, the fibres can release into the air and lead to lung damage when inhaled. This is why asbestos should always be handled by a professional with the proper training and safety gear.
The Three Types Of Banned Asbestos
There were a total of three types of asbestos minerals banned between 1985 and 1999. They are most commonly known as brown, blue, and white asbestos. Each of these minerals has unique properties that make them more useful in some situations as well as more dangerous.
Brown asbestos, also known as amosite, was banned in the UK in 1985. The fibres of amosite are particularly dangerous because they are coarse and sharp. When inhaled or ingested they can easily cause long-term damage to internal organs. Amosite is the second most common type of asbestos and is most often found in insulating boards and ceiling tiles.
Chrysotile, or white asbestos, is the most commonly found type of asbestos. Anywhere between 95 and 98 per cent of the asbestos used in construction was chrysotile. The fibres are much softer than amosite, which makes it easier to work into textile products. Many workers and homeowners still encounter chrysotile during their daily routines.
The third most common type of asbestos is crocidolite or blue asbestos. The soft, yet durable fibres of crocidolite are excellent at resisting heat. It was often used loosely to insulate pipes. Blue asbestos was also a preferred solution for insulating steam engines. Crocidolite production equalled roughly one per cent of all asbestos used in the UK.
What Type Of Asbestos Was Used In Window Panels?
There are a few key areas in the home where asbestos may be a serious problem. The likelihood of asbestos being inside the home increases significantly if the home was built between 1900 and 1980. Here are a few key areas in an older home that may still have asbestos present:
- Beneath floors
- Partition walls
- Ceiling panels
- Window panels
Each of these areas is responsible for providing insulation and resisting temperature changes. Asbestos may perform this job exceptionally, but it is still a good idea to have a professional remove the toxic material from your home. Asbestos exposure is linked to deadly lung diseases, cancers like mesothelioma, and painful conditions like asbestosis.
The various walls and panels that used asbestos for insulation were often constructed with AIBs. AIBs were easy to manufacture, easy to work with, and were great at resisting unwanted properties like heat and sound. The specifics of each board would vary according to the manufacturer, but most used a heavy combination of white and brown asbestos fibres.
How To Test For Asbestos
If your home was built before 1985, then it may be a good idea to have it inspected for asbestos. It's a relatively simple and affordable process that could protect you from some serious health risks. More than 2,500 people die every year due to asbestos. Consider investing in a home survey to ensure those window panels aren't a danger.