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Asbestos products & applications: what types of products were made using asbestos, and what were the various industrial and private markets for asbestos materials? This article gives the history of and describes the various applications of use of asbestos. We include an original table listing the wide range of asbestos-containing products across all areas and uses, and we link to a newer, more complete list of asbestos products & materials.
This articles series about the manufacture & use of asbestos-containing products includes detailed information on the production methods, asbestos content, and the identity and use of asbestos-containing materials. Our page top photo shows asbestos hardcast or paste insulation used on the exterior of a heating boiler.
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Basic and applied research and development programs have been carried out for many years on asbestos materials and their products. The consumption and sales of asbestos as well as the diversity of its applications have been steadily increasing.
[Click to enlarge any image]
New mine deposits have been located and improved mining processes have been discovered.
These in turn have stimulated new product development. The future growth of the industry may be estimated from an analysis of the items in Table 1.7.
Table 1.7. Asbestos Applications [separate PDF file] provides an extensive list of products that made use of asbestos. A click on this document will then take the reader to ASBESTOS LIST of PRODUCTS our expanded version of Rosato's original tables in the PDF file as an illustrated and cross-linked list of asbestos products. A link there titled ASBESTOS PRODUCTS 1959 will return here - Ed.
Asbestos products are important contributors to the comfort and safety of mankind; they are also important base materials for our highly scientific and space age.
Materials exist for insulating the home, operating automobiles, reducing or eliminating fire hazards in industry and at home, protecting buildings, pipes and other items against corrosion and decay; the same materials service blast furnaces and steel mills, permit operation of and provide protection in electric power stations, provide fire resistant products on hoard ships, and help in the development and progress of missiles and aircraft.
See Figures 1.8 through 1.11 inclusive, shown at left and below.
Figure 1.8. The Vanguard satellite rocket (Cape Canaveral, Florida) shown at take-off. Asbestos parts include 6 1/2-ft. nose cone, electrical and thermal insulation, conduits etc. (Official U. S. Navy Photo)
Asbestos in Building Construction
Asbestos-cement products are widely used in commercial and industrial buildings and private homes.
Such products utilize the largest quantity of asbestos.
They include siding and roofing shingles, flat and corrugated sheets, and wall boards, all of which are now available in many different decorative colors.
Figure 1.9. Asbestos cement pipe. (Courtesy Johns-Manville Corp.)
Within recent years  approximately one-half of all asbestos used in the United States was employed in the manufacture of asbestos-cement sheets, pipes and floor tile.
Another important item is millboard. This product is similar to cardboard in appearance but is much tougher and stronger.
Incombustible insulation boards are available in different colors. Another building material is asbestos-felted roof insulation; this material is generally combined with asphalt.
Figure 1.10 Aluminized asbestos fabric used in safety clothing for hot spots—furnace repair, coking, working white hot ingots, etc. (Courtesy Mine Safety Appliances Co.). See ASBESTOS TEXTILES.
Asbestos filled plaster, stucco and paints provide fire resistance with low maintenance and good appearance.
In the hard-surface floor covering industry, asphalt and vinyl-asbestos tiles (ASBESTOS FLOOR TILES) have helped to build a major industry. Now they account for approximately 29 per cent of the flooring market.
Figure 1.11. Asbestos cement corrugated decorative wallboards. (Courtesy Johns-Manville Corp.)
Asbestos Textile Products
The original textile use of asbestos was in such woven products as coats, aprons, shoes, and gloves. Next came asbestos curtains for the theatre and for other public buildings. Now the textile uses are indeed diversified.
These uses include fire blankets, iron rollers, electrolytic cells, filters, linings for ovens and refrigerators and oven or dryer belts.
As illustrated by our photo, asbestos textiles were also widely used in HVAC systems to provide flexible, heat-resistant connections between the air handler and ductwork, functioning as a vibration dampener to avoid sending equipment noises into the building. See ASBESTOS DUCT VIBRATION DAMPENERS.
Asbestos cloth continues to play an important part in the manufacture of woven brake linings, clutch plates, and related friction products. Asbestos yarn and cloth are important as reinforcing agents or fillers for gaskets and packings. Such diversified types of hinders as organic and inorganic resins and rubbers are used with asbestos to provide products which are resistant to high temperature, to chemicals, to high pressures and to steam.
Asbestos is incorporated in filters (woven or nonwoven form) and it is used to filter such products as dust, chemicals, blood, and viruses.
Asbestos Use in Heat Insulators
Asbestos fiber is used alone or in combination with other materials to produce temperature or electrical insulations. The heat insulators can be used to conserve fuel, eliminate overheating of areas, or protect other products from fire.
Such varied types of heat, insulators as millboard, molded shapes for pipes, other heat-generating units, and different grades of paper are manufactured.
At left: photo of asbestos paper insulation remaining on an HVAC air ducts - D. Friedman
Insulators for heat and sound generating units are made so that they provide maximum efficiency in these applications. These types of products contain a very small percentage of binder. Insulating material is also applied by spraying. Asbestos filled inorganic binders are predominantly used.
Asbestos paper (above left) and on occasion asbestos fabric (above right) was used to wrap the exterior of heating ducts and their connection to heating registers - Ed.. For details about asbestos cloth or fabrics or paper used in these applications see:
At left: photo of nearly pure tremolite asbestos panels attached to a commercial building ceiling to provide heat and fireproofing insulation - D. Friedman
These same plants may use asbestos electrical insulation on many of their cables and wires. This is clone so that when cables are overloaded and/or subjected to extreme high temperatures, the asbestos fiber will occupy space with relatively no loss in density or bulk.
Where high electrical insulation value is required and extremely thin paper products are required, asbestos products find good application. Extremely thin paper sheets which are composed of nonmagnetic contaminants are available.
Some general applications of asbestos products in the electrical industry include conduit coverings, spark arrestors, battery boxes, armature windings, bus bars, motor slot wedges and other parts requiring good electrical properties and high temperature resistance.
Asbestos Use in Motors and Engines
Nonwoven asbestos is extensively used in brake linings, clutch facings, packings, and gaskets. Asbestos filled plastics have found applications in such varied automotive or motor parts as heaters, electrical units, bearings, washers, etc. Such varied fillers as metals, graphite, sisal, and glass, in addition to asbestos are frequently used.
Typical mass produced asbestos filled phenolic parts are distributor covers and rotors.
Another application for asbestos is in lubricants to give solidity and to regulate the melting temperature or the rate of flow.
Asbestos, Its Industrial Applications - Rosato: Text& Chapter Index 
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Web search 01/20/2011, original source: http://epa.gov/asbestos/pubs/verm_questions.html
prepared by the: Global Environment & Technology Foundation, 7010 Little River Turnpike, Suite. 460, Annandale VA 20003