Asbestos in Paint

By Cristina M. in Construction

In a world where everything around us, from buildings to cars and even road signs, is covered in paint, asbestos has been seen as an incredible raw material due to its fire-proofing properties. Therefore, it did not take long for it to be incorporated in construction products, including paints.

This is how, until the mineral was regulated in 1980, building and car paints have been containing 10% asbestos fibers. These paints were widely used in homes, schools, and public buildings as a cheap and efficient way to make such structures fire-resistant and thus reducing the number of fire accidents.

Why asbestos?

Before discovering the hazardous effects of asbestos on people's health, using it in paint seemed like a revolutionary idea for the industry. This idea relied on the mineral's availability, which made it very cheap, as well as on its excellent properties. Asbestos is a lightweight, chemically stable, non-corrosive material which does not conduct electricity and increases the holding power of paint products.

However, its most important characteristic is the ability to withstand fire. The fireproof paints which resulted were widely used for covering public buildings, homes, and cars. Moreover, asbestos was used for manufacturing fireproof insulation and construction products. During the 19th century, these asbestos-containing materials were the people's first choice when it came to building homes or renovating them.

From paint filler to highly-used additives

Given its low cost, asbestos started being used as a filler in various products, especially paints. Although it was mainly employed to reduce the consumption of other paint ingredients, manufacturers observed that the mineral actually increased the properties of liquid paints, allowing them to flow well and providing them with chemical stability in both hot and cold environments. Asbestos additives have also been developed in order to enhance the color of paint.

Asbestos exposure through paint

When it comes to asbestos exposure, it is important to know that paint only becomes dangerous when it begins to deteriorate. Asbestos-containing paint is usually stable and relatively safe, but once disturbed, microscopic fibers are released into the air and can easily be inhaled.

Asbestos exposure through paint can therefore happen when removing old asbestos paints from surfaces during renovations. If the presence of this mineral is suspected, it is better to avoid disturbing the painted surfaces. The best course of action is to contact a licensed asbestos company for advice on how to renovate the building without contaminating the area.

Why Should I Test Products in My Home for Asbestos?

It is often impossible to tell whether asbestos is embedded in a material, as the fibers are too small to be observed with the naked eye. Exposure to asbestos is responsible for serious respiratory conditions, so thorough testing is required to ensure your home is asbestos-free.