Breaching insulation was once used to keep heat inside homes. It was also used to insulate buildings like schools, hospitals, and office buildings. Breaching insulation was used to add heat resistance to places that might otherwise be exposed to water or steam in ducts that may have burst or broken. Weak areas in the boiler or ductwork were coated with this insulation to protect against excessive damage. The insulation actually added a measure of safety for the people living and working in buildings heated by the boilers. It also provided safety to the maintenance crews who had to keep them up and running.
Prior to the 1980s, asbestos was added to breaching insulation which made it effective and affordable. Asbestos was highly resistant to heat and could resist corrosion by water and steam; additionally, it was inexpensive and easy to obtain. Today, asbestos is no longer used in breaching insulation. However, many of the buildings constructed prior to the 1980s that are still using residential or commercial boilers currently have breaching material with asbestos fibers embedded in it.
Even though asbestos poses little danger if left alone, should it flake or release dust particles in the air, it may cause serious or deadly health issues for anyone nearby. Anyone working, living in a building or going to school in an area where asbestos has been released into the air is at risk. Therefore, if your school, home, hospital or office has a boiler that was repaired or altered in any way since it was installed, there might be a chance that the breaching insulation may have been disturbed. This often happens during repair of or alteration to the boiler system or surrounding ductwork.