One versatile material that was used during construction of offices, homes and other buildings during the early to mid 1900’s was cork board. This lightweight material was easy to install and was attractive. The cork board was made with asbestos, which added fire retardant properties to the material. Most of the cork board that was used during construction and insulation prior to the 1980s had asbestos in it.
Cork board was an easy “do it yourself” wall covering and offered good absorption and insulation. The cork board was often affixed to the wall, ceiling, and floor with construction mastics that also contained asbestos. Sometimes the asbestos-filled cork board was even placed underneath the wood or tile flooring because it allowed cushion when walking.
At the beginning of the 20th century, asbestos was found in many construction materials. This lightweight mineral was called the “miracle mineral” because it was resistant to fire, electricity, corrosion, and heat and water. It was also used to weave cloth and yarn, and it could be mixed into cement or combined with wood pulp. Once combined with other materials, it could be painted or sprayed on, or affixed with screws and nails. Unfortunately however, the dangers of this “miracle mineral” were not usually known to the individuals who worked with it every day.
Asbestos exposure is very dangerous and can cause a very rare yet aggressive cancer called mesothelioma. This happens when fibers of the asbestos are released into the environment and then inhaled by a human. The fibers can remain inside the body for a long time, which results in inflammation and infection. Any amount of exposure to asbestos raises the risk of developing an asbestos related illness. Unfortunately, the rate of mesothelioma is significantly high for individuals who were exposed to the asbestos in cork tiles, cork boards, and other asbestos filled materials.