Asbestos was used to make all different types of insulation. Because it was so fire-resistant and insulated so well it was added to things like foams, fluff, fiberfill, and cement insulations, all of which were utilized in some way in the construction business for years until the 1970s. Spray-applied insulation was particularly popular form of insulation because of its easy application; anyone could do it. The EPA banned it in 1973, but not before it had already been used in literally hundreds of thousands of public and private structures throughout the country.
Spray-applied insulation is one of the most deadly uses for asbestos. Since the innate danger of asbestos is the possibility of inhaling its fibers that get into the air, it is understandable that spraying asbestos can create a fine mist of hazardous asbestos fibers. Thousands of fibers can hang in the air for a long time, and since the fibers are so small, a typical mask or respirator will not protect against them. Spray-applied insulation is also “friable,” which means it comes apart easily when handled in any way.
If spray-applied insulation is discovered in a building these days, it is usually encapsulated it in order to prevent further damage rather than removing it. Anyone who worked with spray-applied insulation prior to 1980 may be at risk for a rare cancer that affects the lining of the lungs known as mesothelioma.