Asbestos sheets can refer to any number of materials used in industrial applications, building construction or manufacturing. The term “asbestos sheets” may refer to:
- Vinyl Flooring
- Roofing Sheets
- Insulation Sheets
- Wallboard Sheets (Transite, drywall, etc.)
- Rubber sheets (used for seals, electrical insulation, etc.)
The general rule of thumb in looking for asbestos-containing materials is that if there was high heat or danger of combustion, asbestos was likely to be present. The use of any of these materials usually involved cutting pieces into particular shapes using shears or razor knives – an activity which was likely to cause the release of asbestos fibers into the air.
The use of asbestos in the manufacture of these sheet materials has been gradually phased out in the U.S. Unfortunately, as deregulation of industry has allowed the wholesale export of U.S. industrial capacity to China and India , the manufacture of such materials continues unabated fed by the asbestos mining industries in Canada and Russia. Today, this is primarily chrysotile, or “white” asbestos. Chrysotile has long made up the majority of asbestos used in sheet building and industrial products; it is found in serpentine rock deposits. The Canadian government continues to tout this form of asbestos as a “safe” variety; however, it is largely responsible for pleural plaques and asbestosis, which has afflicted the workers in Libby, Montana.
Four other varieties of asbestos have been commonly used in industrial sheet materials, the most common of which were amosite (“brown” asbestos), and crocidolite (“blue” asbestos). These varieties are no longer used due to their exceptionally deadly nature and implication as the sole cause of mesothelioma. However, because these varieties were used for so long, they are still commonly encountered in renovation projects as well as oil refineries and chemical plants.
Unfortunately, there is no reliable method for determining if such sheet materials contain asbestos simply through visual examination. The best defense is a thorough knowledge of what specific materials are known to contain asbestos. Many states, such as Colorado, require that any building undergoing renovation or demolition be inspected for asbestos by trained asbestos abatement contractors prior to starting work.
If you suspect the presence of asbestos in your home or building, the best course of action is to notify a licensed asbestos inspector. Chances are that if the material is not visibly damaged, crumbling or flaking there is no friable asbestos in the air. However, damaged material must be dealt with immediately.