During the Second World War, a spray that contained asbestos was used for insulating the boiler systems on ships. It was also sprayed onto the walls of the ships to cut down on the risk of fire, which was a particularly deadly occurrence at sea. When the war was over, spray fireproofing spread into public use. From the time of the war until the 1970s, many public buildings including government offices and schools were sprayed with these fire-proofing sprays that contained asbestos.
While safety was the reason behind this action, this practice exposed thousands of workers and millions of children in this country to a toxic compound. An EPA report released in 1988 stated there were as many as 750,000 public buildings in the U.S. that contained all kinds of asbestos materials, not just spray fireproofing. Many of these asbestos-containing materials remain in place today.
Cleanup would cost billions of dollars and be very dangerous. However, the main concern is the health of the people who were exposed and possibly ingested some of the deadly asbestos fibers that can cause asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis. Those who applied the spray fireproofing are at the greatest risk, but anyone who has come in contact with chipping or damaged insulation has been exposed to asbestos.