Asbestos in Blaze Shields

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Blaze-Shield is the brand name for a type of fire-resistant concrete manufactured by Cafco International and marketed by its parent company, Isolatek International. According to sales literature, it is a “commercial-density…compositely reinforced portland cement-based spray-applied fire resistive material (SFRM) designed to endure construction abuse as well as exposure to extreme weather conditions.” Although the sales literature does not contain information regarding its ingredients, the company claims that Blaze-Shield is compliant with EPA and U.S. military regulations for fire-proofing.

This type of spray-on fireproof insulation material was widely used between the early 1960s and the mid-1970s because it was cost effective and lightweight. Despite calls from the people of the U.S. to ban the use of such materials, Congress paid more attention to corporate lobbyists for the asbestos industry, particularly those working for W.R. Grace. Legislation written by those lobbyists allowed corporations to market materials as “asbestos-free” as long as the amount did not exceed 1 percent (though Isolatek makes no such claim for Blaze-Shield). Prior to 1973, MonoKote consisted of 12 percent asbestos fiber. Appropriately, this loophole came to be known as the “Grace Rule.” Today, despite facing several hundred million dollars in asbestos liability, W.R. Grace continues to manufacture and sell MonoKote.

According to the University of Wisconsin’s maintenance department, this type of spray-on fireproofing poses a substantial health hazard due to its tendency to crumble and become airborne. Blaze-Shield, MonoKote, and similar materials should be treated with a high degree of caution by homeowners who discover they are present in their houses. This material is among the most friable of all asbestos-containing materials and its cleanup is best left to certified asbestos contractors.

The alternative is to seal or “encapsulate” such materials using one of the resin products developed for this purpose. In either case, this material is known to deteriorate and crumble into dust readily; once asbestos fibers have escaped into the air, they can float about in the home for hours or even days, posing a serious, ongoing health hazard.