Machine room floors are among many products or fixtures that may contain asbestos. Since it is heat and fire resistant with good insulation capabilities, asbestos serves a very protective purpose when placed in machine room floors. Today, asbestos-containing materials still exist and continue to be utilized by many industries. However, extreme precautions are to be followed when in close contact with the mineral. Why is this so? Let’s go back to asbestos’ long history to understand this controversial element better.
Asbestos is a Greek word which translates to indestructible or inextinguishable. There are five major properties of asbestos which make it an essential component in machine room floors:
- high-tensile strength properties
- fibrous qualities
- thermal resistant
- chemical resistant
The first recorded uses of asbestos go all the way back to 2500 BC. Asbestos was used for pottery making as well as a material for wick in oil lamps. It was also placed in cloths during cremation so the ashes of the dead could be retained. It was also mixed with clay and other materials to serve as house wares. The Chinese and Egyptians even used asbestos fiber to make mats.
Because of health conditions associated with asbestos exposure, its utilization has been greatly minimized since the ’70s. However, aside from industrial uses and machine room floors, it may still be present in ordinary household items and in the fixtures and components of old buildings.
While it was considered a magical mineral, a lot of high hopes came crashing hard to the ground when it became apparent that asbestos is more harmful than it is helpful. Here are some significant dates marking several changes in the asbestos industry:
- Late 1970s – The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) banned asbestos in gas fireplaces and wallboard patching compounds. It had been discovered that fibers can become airborne during the use of these products.
- 1979 – Electric hairdryer companies voluntarily stopped using asbestos in their products.
- 1989 – The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) still allowed asbestos already in use before 1989 but banned any new uses of the mineral. The EPA also required schools to check for deteriorating asbestos-containing materials. It also required diminishing exposure by building occupants through the process of encasing or removal of asbestos-containing materials.
Today, asbestos is utilized as a fortifying additive in concretes, paints, cement, tar mixtures and vinyl. Although precautionary measures are being established by numerous industries, the risks of long-term exposure to asbestos still remains a threat.