Asbestos has been a component in a number of consumer products in the United States since the 1880s. Due to its relatively low cost as well as its strength and heat-resilience, materials made with asbestos were widely employed in the building and construction industry. Prior to 1980, when the potential health risks were still widely unknown to the general public, masonry fill, a compound poured between cinder blocks to seal and insulate basements and walls, was one such product that contained asbestos. Once the health risks were known to those companies connected with masonry fill and similar products, its use was not suspended. Its health effects were also sometimes concealed from the employees in direct contact with the materials. It wasn’t until those exposed to the carcinogens began developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases did the cessation begin to commence.
When handling masonry fill that contains asbestos, no matter what sort of precautions are put into place, there is still the potential of the hazardous particles being released into the air. These fibers are easily inhaled and quickly become embedded into the lining surrounding the lungs, heart, and/or stomach. As the body tries to rid these fibers from the system, the jagged edges of the asbestos create small tears in the infected organs. These tears become scars that may mutate into tumors of mesothelioma. Symptoms are virtually nonexistent until the tumor grows to the point when the function of that organ is disrupted. Mesothelioma can be very difficult to treat and has a latency period up to 30-40 years.
As with any product containing asbestos, masonry fill poses no immediate health risk to the general public if left undamaged and in good condition. However, it is recommended that the compound, if still whole and intact, be sealed to limit the potential of any asbestos fibers being released into the air. If the masonry fill were to become friable or broken, a skilled professional should be brought in for the inspection and disposal of the material. Certain provisions need to be made when handling carcinogens such as asbestos so a trained contractor is always the best option. Homeowners should never attempt to clean and discard waste associated with products containing asbestos, including masonry fill. If there is any question as to whether a product contains asbestos, an individual should weigh on the side of the positive and deal with the materials as such.