Stone Sheathing using asbestos was used throughout the 1900s, and likely before that primarily as a decorative building material like a stone veneer. Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral, was bound with cement and molded into various shapes to create architectural features in both commercial and home construction projects. Asbestos was used in many construction products like stone sheathing because of its durable, fire resistant nature. Asbestos fibers were combined with cement to create many different construction products, and some continue to be used today.
Asbestos fibers, incorporated into the stone sheathing, were then released into the air when the materials were cut, drilled, sanded, or demolished. When asbestos containing materials undergo this type of work, dust particles enter the air, carrying the highly toxic asbestos fibers. Asbestos fibers are then inhaled and can become embedded into the respiratory or digestive tract of people creating the potential for significant health problems. Asbestos fibers can also be transmitted from exposed workers to their family through contact with their clothing.
Many regulations now exist to protect construction workers, their families and unsuspecting individuals who work in buildings with asbestos containing stone sheathing. The medical conditions caused by exposure to asbestos are difficult to treat and include lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis. The symptoms of these diseases may come years after the exposure, and include shortness of breath, coughing, chest pain and bloody sputum. Because of this significant health risk, working with stone sheathing and other asbestos containing products has been highly regulated through OSHA, the EPA and other governmental organizations. In tact asbestos containing materials like stone sheathing have been proven to only very slightly increase the illness rates for people who occupy the structure, but do not engage in any drilling, sanding or demolition.
When working around asbestos containing construction materials such as stone sheathing, it is important to minimize the dust particles and to keep the materials in tact. Asbestos abatement contractors are skilled in removal of stone sheathing and can help building owners minimize the health risks involved in any renovations. OSHA has instituted many regulations to minimize the exposure of asbestos dust particles to construction workers.