Asbestos has been used as an effective insulator in homes and commercial buildings throughout most of the 20th century. The insulation helps to keep homes cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Blown-in insulation helped reduced electric bills but also generated a risk for the families who lived in them, as asbestos was often used to make the insulation flame retardant. In the late 1970s, it became evident that asbestos fibers were very dangerous. Asbestos has been linked to a variety of serious health conditions. Restrictions have been placed on using asbestos in a variety of materials.
Blown-in insulation was usually installed by professionals, but those workers were put at risk during the installation process. Any occupants in a building that has blown-in insulation were also put at risk. If the insulation broke or cracked, the risk was increased, with the fibers spread throughout air ducts in the affected building.
Today, blown-in insulation is made with fiberglass, which has been deemed safe. However, many older homes may still have asbestos-riddled blown-in insulation. If a homeowner suspects his or her insulation, it is best to call a professional to determine the next course of action. If the insulation is deteriorating and needs replacing, a professional crew will need to handle the asbestos insulation removal. If the insulation is in good repair, it is best to leave it as is. Removal or handling of the asbestos insulation can cause the dangerous fibers to be released into the air.
Asbestos exposure can cause a condition known as asbestosis. The asbestos fibers have also been linked a number of lung, stomach, and colorectal cancers. One cancer, known as mesothelioma, is only known to be caused by asbestos fibers. The cancer affects the lining of the heart, lungs, and abdomen. It does not typically produce any symptoms until it is in the final stages.