For decades, particularly in the years during the Second World War, asbestos was commonly used to make a number of different products used in construction and other industries. Pipe insulation was one of these products. This insulation helped conserved the energy used by heating and cooling systems installed in homes, public buildings, and many other structures.
Asbestos was used so often because of its durability and its effectiveness as an insulator. It resists heat and corrosion and could be cheaply and easily obtained. But it is now widely known that it presents serious dangers to health. Because of the construction boom that began after the war, there are probably millions of buildings that still contain materials like pipe insulation with asbestos in them. Using asbestos for insulating pipes is particularly hazardous since the insulation is part of a system that delivers air throughout buildings.
Fibers of asbestos are like tiny threads, and when they get into the air, for instance through a heating and cooling system, it is easy to inhale them into the body where they can become lodged in the mesothelium, which is the lining of the lungs, heart, and abdomen. The result can be diseases like mesothelioma.