Insulation seal is a paste-like substance that was often used to seal common fittings or to adhere insulating materials to pipes, duct work and other fixtures in the home that may experience extreme changes in temperature. Typically, these sealants were used on furnaces and boilers as well as pipes and ducts, namely at the elbows or other irregular parts of the system, but could also be found around windows, door frames and even on roofs. In homes and other buildings constructed prior to the 1970’s, this sealant was oftentimes made with asbestos. Due to its resistance to heat and overall pliability, asbestos was a perfect component for this type of material, usually making up between ten and thirty percent of the product.
Because of how this material was used, spotting insulation seal with the naked eye can be next to impossible, as it is often hidden underneath insulation or between two sealed structures. As with anything that is exposed to a constant change of conditions, insulation seal may experience, over time, a certain amount of deterioration. This deterioration may potentially lead to the release of asbestos fibers into the environment. Once these fibers become airborne, the likelihood of inhalation by individuals residing in those homes increases.
Many times, when a home has been cleaned of asbestos insulation around pipes and duct work, homeowners may still find remnants of the insulation seal at the elbows, or corners, of these systems. If an insulation seal containing asbestos is still present, it would appear as a grayish-white residue, often rough and porous, sometimes with old insulation fibers embedded in the compound itself. This is a sure sign that a professional abatement company was not employed for the removal and disposal of the harmful material. Homeowners should then question if other parts of the home still hold asbestos-containing materials—more specifically those that have been damaged or disturbed—and take measures to avoid the health hazards they pose.
Prolonged exposure to asbestos, and in some cases limited contact to this carcinogen, has been linked to diseases such as lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis, among other asbestos-related illnesses. Those people at greatest risk of developing these types of diseases are individuals currently and/or formerly employed in construction and asbestos-containing product manufacturers. Family members of these individuals are also at risk since the asbestos fibers may adhere to clothing and be introduced into the home environment.