Asbestos Felt: Dangerous Product in Roofing, Flooring & Paper Mills

2022-05-26 08:17:43 By : Ms. Ella Xu

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Builders commonly used asbestos felt as a floor backing and roofing material during much of the 20th century. Many tradesmen suffered high levels of toxic exposure when working with asbestos felt in the past, because it can lead to serious long-term health issues when it is uncovered in old buildings.

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Because of the naturally soft, fibrous consistency of asbestos, the fireproof mineral was also made into felt for construction and manufacturing purposes until its toxicity was revealed to the public. Felt is a type of fabric made when textile fibers are compressed and heated or moistened so that they mat together. Felt was commonly made of animal hair or synthetic fibers.

Asbestos felt was used as an underlayment for floors and roofs. Paper mills also used sheets of it on which to dry hot paper pulp. The asbestos content of these products was historically 85%, with almost all manufacturers using the common chrysotile form, also known as “white asbestos.” Because asbestos felt is friable, which means it easily releases toxic dust particles into the air when worked with or disturbed, it poses a major exposure risk.

Asbestos flooring felt is one of the few asbestos products completely banned in the U.S., and regulations now require other products to contain less than 1% asbestos. However, old asbestos felt remains in the floors and roofs of millions of American buildings constructed between 1900 and the 1990s. Roofers, flooring installers, demolition workers and paper mill workers have faced the greatest risk of exposure to this product.

Exposure to asbestos-contaminated felt may cause the following diseases:

In 2007, an asbestos exposure study published in Annals of Work Exposures and Health simulated work roofers performed using asbestos-containing roofing materials, including felt. Chrysotile asbestos fibers were detected in 28 of 84 air samples taken during the study.

Thankfully, the exposure level detected in the study suggested it is unlikely that current roofers are exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos over an eight-hour work shift. Unfortunately, former roofers have been exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos and have developed related diseases as a result.

Roofers, flooring installers and paper mill workers inhaled asbestos fibers while applying or removing asbestos felt. Even when the product was new and in good condition it could easily release asbestos fibers during handling because of the way it was made.

In decades past, asbestos felt products contributed substantially to the occupational exposure that now results in asbestos-related deaths among retired blue-collar workers each year in fields including:

If you were exposed in the past, watch for symptoms such as difficulty breathing, chest pain, abdominal swelling and fatigue. Workers diagnosed with related diseases should see a specialist to ensure they receive the best treatment possible.

It is important to hire a licensed asbestos abatement professional if you believe asbestos felt is in your home or workplace.

The construction industry primarily used asbestos felt to produce roofing and flooring products. It was also used to make paper.

The primary applications for asbestos felt included:

Companies that manufactured asbestos felt include:

Other companies that manufactured asbestos felt products include:

Since the 1970s, thousands of construction workers and homeowners have filed lawsuits against manufactures of asbestos products, including asbestos felt manufacturers, after being diagnosed with illnesses such as mesothelioma and lung cancer. This sent many companies into bankruptcy.

Another major manufacturer of asbestos flooring products, Armstrong World Industries, was driven to bankruptcy in 2000 by the volume of lawsuits filed against it. As part of its reorganization, it established the Armstrong World Industries Asbestos Trust in 2006 to provide compensation to present and future claimants. According to the trust’s 2014 annual report, it paid almost $100 million in claims that year, and its total value was about $1.8 billion.

In addition to lawsuits and trust fund claims, other forms of compensation include VA claims, Social Security Disability and grants for treatment or travel. An experienced mesothelioma attorney can offer the best guidance on the types of compensation for which you may qualify.

If roofing or flooring installed before 1980 must be repaired or replaced, a sample of the underlayment should be tested for asbestos before the work gets underway. Consult a trained asbestos abatement professional before doing any work that may disturb an asbestos felt product.

Asbestos felt is friable, making it a particularly hazardous product no matter the percentage of asbestos content. Most asbestos felt in homes and businesses today is encapsulated under floor tiles and roof shingles. The safest thing to do in many cases is to leave it that way so asbestos fibers remain trapped.

In the early 1900s, a new construction method called built-up roofing became popular. During this process, several layers of fabric covered with tar or asphalt were laid down on top of one another. Asbestos felt became the primary material used in many flat-topped buildings.

Materials used in flooring installation also incorporated asbestos felt. Linoleum, asphalt and vinyl floor tiles all offered cheap and durable flooring solutions, and asbestos felt products were available as backing materials for all of them.

The rise of the office worker brought with it the advent of the modern paper industry, which found yet another application for asbestos felt. After trees are processed into wood pulp, the pulp must be dried before being made into paper. Laying the pulp out on sheets of asbestos felt allowed it to be dried at a high temperature, increasing the speed of production.

By the 1980s, however, corporations could no longer cover up the link between asbestos exposure and fatal diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma. As with most asbestos products, the use of asbestos felt has largely been phased out in the United States, though it remains a threat to workers and homeowners renovating old floors and roofs.

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The Mesothelioma Center at Asbestos.com has provided patients and their loved ones the most updated and reliable information on mesothelioma and asbestos exposure since 2006.

Our team of Patient Advocates includes a medical doctor, a registered nurse, health services administrators, veterans, VA-accredited Claims Agents, an oncology patient navigator and hospice care expert. Their combined expertise means we help any mesothelioma patient or loved one through every step of their cancer journey.

More than 30 contributors, including mesothelioma doctors, survivors, health care professionals and other experts, have peer-reviewed our website and written unique research-driven articles to ensure you get the highest-quality medical and health information.

Whitmer, M. (2022, February 9). Asbestos Felt and Paper. Asbestos.com. Retrieved May 26, 2022, from https://www.asbestos.com/products/asbestos-felt-roofing-flooring/

Whitmer, Michelle. "Asbestos Felt and Paper." Asbestos.com, 9 Feb 2022, https://www.asbestos.com/products/asbestos-felt-roofing-flooring/.

Whitmer, Michelle. "Asbestos Felt and Paper." Asbestos.com. Last modified February 9, 2022. https://www.asbestos.com/products/asbestos-felt-roofing-flooring/.

The sources on all content featured in The Mesothelioma Center at Asbestos.com include medical and scientific studies, peer-reviewed studies and other research documents from reputable organizations.

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