Furnace cement is a compound, either dry or pre-mixed, that is used around furnaces or boilers to seal together bricks in homes and other buildings. Prior to the 1980s, it was often made with asbestos due to its durability, heat resistance and ability to withstand fire, as well as its availability and cost effectiveness. When it finally came to light that prolonged exposure to asbestos could cause serious health problems, many of the products containing these fibers came under heavy scrutiny from the public. Several ceased being made with the fiber, including furnace cement, but still others continued in production.
Much of the furnace cement used in the construction of older homes and buildings has since been removed and replaced with a similar compound that does not contain asbestos. However, if a homeowner is unsure of the material found around their furnace or boiler, as well as the compound used to cement together any fire brick in the home, an experienced contractor should be brought in to inspect the products in question. Removal of asbestos is a very complicated matter and should only be completed by a skilled professional. They understand the necessary precautions to keep the area safe for both the workers and people nearby.
It should also be noted that a number of companies, even after the serious health implications became known, continued to use the asbestos furnace cement. The simple fact that a home was built after 1980 does not necessarily guarantee that the furnace cement used during construction was free of asbestos. If a person is unsure of its composition, it’s always advisable to operate under the assumption that the compound does contain the cancer causing fiber and treat it as such.
Furnace cement composed of asbestos, as with any product containing these hazardous fibers, poses a serious health risk when it becomes friable, or able to release small particles into the air. If a product is found to contain asbestos, the surface area, unless already damaged or broken, should be sealed to reduce any potential risk. If it’s already protected, the safest option is to leave it alone. When furnace cement actually becomes friable, there is the likelihood that the asbestos fibers are airborne and can be inhaled into the lungs. Once present in the body, an individual’s chances of contracting mesothelioma, a very rare, yet aggressive form of cancer, or other asbestos-related diseases increases exponentially.