Refractory cement is cement that can be cast and used in areas that are exposed to extreme heat like furnaces, forges, and fireplaces. In the time leading up to the 1980s this type of cement frequently was made with 20 percent asbestos because of its insulating properties and fire resistance. Asbestos was used in thousands of products, especially those used in construction and manufacturing. Its properties made it perfect for use in refractory cement. Although the use of the toxic mineral was restricted in 1977, supplies of products that contained asbestos were still used into the 1980s.
Asbestos fibers are trapped inside the layers of cement in asbestos refractory cement and are rarely dangerous as long as the cement is not disturbed or does not deteriorate. But even small amounts of erosion or damage can allow these fibers to get into the air. Once in the air they are easily taken into the body by inhaling or swallowing. This type of exposure to asbestos can result in mesothelioma and other dangerous diseases.
Mesothelioma is particularly dangers because its symptoms may mimic those of other, less serious, lung conditions until the disease has become significantly advanced. It usually affects the lining of the chest, but can also affect the abdomen or, in rare cases, the heart. Unfortunately, many people who dealt with asbestos-containing products such as refractory cement have developed this or other asbestos-related diseases.