Among the many construction products in which asbestos was at one time widely used was furnace cement. Furnace cement is a type of joint compound and adhesive that was especially designed for use in the presence of high heat. It is used in areas surrounding both furnaces and boilers to hold firebrick in place. If a fire broke out in the area of a boiler or furnace, firebrick would confine the fire in the enclosed space around it so that it would not spread through the entire structure. It is also known as “stove cement.”
Today most furnace cement is made with sodium silicate as its fire resistant ingredient. But for nearly 130 years asbestos was used for that purpose because it was easily attainable, easy to use, and inexpensive. Even after the health dangers of asbestos were revealed, its use continued, largely because of its cost effectiveness.
Those who worked directly with the manufacture of asbestos furnace cement and production workers responsible for installing furnace cement could have been exposed to asbestos fibers. Once inhaled or ingested, asbestos fibers can become lodged in lining of the lungs, heart, or abdomen, sometimes resulting in mesothelioma, a cancer that affects these organ linings.