Gaskets and Asbestos Exposure
For most of the twentieth century, asbestos gaskets were out of sight and out of mind. However, gaskets played an enormously important role in so many mechanical applications.
They allowed imperfect metal surfaces to mate and seal. Gaskets compressed when tightened and maintained high pressures in contained areas while prohibiting the transfer of liquids and chemicals. They also needed to withstand high heat while staying stable for extended periods.
At one time, asbestos was the prime choice for gasket material.
Asbestos was often blended with other materials to form gasket compounds. The range of asbestos content could be anywhere from as low as 5% to nearly pure.
Asbestos was considered the perfect gasket material because it was:
- Chemical resistant
- Heat resistant
- Readily available
Asbestos gasket material was also easy to cut, shape, form, and blend with other materials like metal and cement.
Although many gaskets were formed in factories, often workers made gaskets on site. This process was common in specialized situations where commercial, ready-made gaskets were unavailable.