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When was asbestos used in homes?

Asbestos-containing transite Panel

During the purchase or renovation of a property built before the 1980s, many homeowners will question if asbestos-containing materials are present. When inspecting a property, many people ask what were the peak years for asbestos to be used in homes. Overall modern asbestos production started in the 1800s during the industrial revolution and dropped off in the late 1970s after regulation banned certain asbestos products and uses. According to the USGS the United States was the leading country in asbestos usage until the 1960s, when it was surpassed by the Soviet Union. While there are a plethora of asbestos-containing materials, in this blog we will discuss the years of use for pipe insulation, vermiculite, and wall systems.

Asbestos-Containing Insulation

Asbestos insulation was used widely in homes and typically associated with piping and ductwork. One of the more common insulation products is known as AirCell, a thermal system insulation (TSI). Air-Cell pipe insulation was created by the John Manville Corporation in 1908 and discontinued between 1915-1920. In a 1990 study conducted by the EPA, they found that out among various building types, buildings built before 1944, apartment buildings, and buildings with 8 floors or more are most likely to contain some form of TSI. Even though Air Cell was discontinued in the early 20th century, John Manville produced other similar pipe insulations such as Asbestocel until the 1970s.

Vermiculite

Vermiculite refers to a mineral that is coveted for its insulating properties and commonly used as attic insulation. Its appearance is a gold to brown pebble material that shimmers in the light. The mineral was usually mined in Libby Montana, which was contaminated with the regulated asbestos mineral Tremolite, and the unregulated Libby amphibole minerals. One common commercialized product of vermiculite is known as Zonalite. According to the EPA, between 1919 to 1990 over 70% of the Vermiculite sold in the United States originated from Libby Montana. The EPA recommends if Vermiculite is observed in a home to assume it is asbestos-containing.

Asbestos-Containing Wall Systems

Some common wall systems where asbestos is present are plaster and drywall. Plaster walls are usually made of a mix of sand, lime, and cement mixture. It can appear in various textures, such as popcorn, stucco, acoustical, and decorative designs. Asbestos-containing plaster was produced by United States, National Gypsum Gold Bond, Georgia-Pacific, and other manufacturing corporations primarily between 1920-1976.

Asbestos can be found not only in drywall sheets but also it’s joint compound. Asbestos can be found in drywall from 1930 and in joint compound from the 1940s until the 1980s. Although banned in the year 1977, asbestos can still be found for a few years later. Last week I inspected a home built in 1980 that had asbestos-containing joint compound.

Conclusions

US consumption of asbestos peaked in 1973 and the first bans began shortly after. While the dates listed for phased out asbestos-containing materials may be used as a guide, it should not be assumed that asbestos will be absent after those dates. Certain materials such as joint compound, vinyl floor tiles, and mastics have a long shelf-life and may have been stored away and used after the materials were phased out.

If you are unsure about a material in your home, visit our page for asbestos inspections. For more information about what to do after asbestos has been confirmed in your home, please refer to our previous entry on that topic. (https://indoorscience.com/blog/what-do-i-do-with-it/)

Sources

U.S. Federal Bans on Asbestos | Asbestos | US EPA

https://www.epa.gov/asbestos/us-federal-bans-asbestos

The History of Asbestos – Importing, Exporting & Worldwide Use

https://www.asbestos.com/asbestos/history/

Protect Your Family from Asbestos-Contaminated Vermiculite Insulation | Asbestos | US EPA

https://www.epa.gov/asbestos/protect-your-family-asbestos-contaminated-vermiculite-insulation

Is There Asbestos Hiding in Your Walls? The Truth About Asbestos Drywall

https://baronandbudd.com/news/at-home-with-asbestos-walls/

Ian Cull

Ian Cull

Ian Cull is a nationally recognized expert in the field of indoor air quality. He is the Chief Science Officer of Indoor Science, a company he started in 2004. He speaks around the world on air quality topics and is a training provider of the Indoor Air Quality Association. Mr. Cull is a Licensed Professional Engineer (PE) and Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH). His degree is in Environmental Engineering from the University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign. Mr. Cull has developed 50 air quality related courses for the IAQA University and is the author of the book, “Fundamentals of Mold Remediation”. In his words… “Besides being passionate about indoor air quality, I enjoy cycling, music, the Chicago Bulls, and having fun with my three kids.”

6 thoughts on “When was asbestos used in homes?

    Hi Jordan,
    I’m planning on siding my home. It’s an older home…at least 90 years old. It currently has slate siding. Can slate siding contain asbestos?
    Also, I need a new roof and was told there may be 5 layers of shingles….what do you think, asbestos?
    Thank You for your time.

    Hello Kris,

    I would recommend sampling the siding and shingles if they are too be removed or disturbed.

    Hi Jordan,

    I recently bought a condo that was built in 1989. I’m having extensive remodelling done of the place that includes tearing down walls and removing bathroom floor tiles. Is there any chance that I may have asbestos containing material in the condo? Should I hire an asbestos expert to get the place tested before renovation begins?

    I would recommend it to see if there are possibly any materials present. Due to age there is a much lower likelihood that asbestos is present.

    What would you recommend for a home buyer who can not do destructive testing in a home that they are considering purchasing? Is there a non-destructive test (such as testing for asbestos in dust) that can help set their mind at ease before purchasing the property?

    Hello Mike,

    I recommend having the bulk samples collected from suspect materials preferably. I understand that during the real estate transaction often owners will not allow this to happen. The dust sample can tell you if the asbestos structures in the dust are elevated but cannot determine if asbestos materials are present.