Asbestos valve stem packing was frequently used in many commercial and residential construction applications, as well as in plumbing and heating systems. It was put around the stems of valves for insulation purposes in order to stop heat from transferring into ducts, boilers, and many other places.
There were over 5,000 products used in manufacturing and construction that were made with asbestos during the 20th century. It was a common choice because of its insulating and fire-resistant properties. But asbestos is extremely toxic. If the fibers from asbestos get into the body through inhalation or ingestion, they can cause deadly diseases like mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis.
If a home or commercial buildings contains asbestos valve stem packing or asbestos in any other form, that does not necessarily mean there is a risk for the people who live or work in those buildings. If the asbestos is not disturbed, it is not likely the fibers will get into the air where they can be inhaled. It is when these products begin to deteriorate or are disturbed that the danger is present. The workers who participated in the production of the asbestos valve stem packing and other products were at the greatest risk of exposure.