The finishing process is what ensures not only a good looking, but also a long-lasting and durable, concrete surface. This is the step that adds the texture and appearance to the surface. Finishing cement is applied to fill extra space and to make the visible top surface of the concrete. It is made with sand, limestone, and other ingredients that help the cement harden and last. From about 1900 to the early 1980s, one of these ingredients was asbestos, a natural mineral that was strong as well as fire resistant.
One reason asbestos was used is that it consists of tiny particles or fibers that combine well with the sand and limestone into a consistency that is smooth and easy to apply to rough surfaces. Asbestos finishing cements usually contained about 20 percent asbestos.
While the asbestos fibers were used in the finishing cement because they bound so tightly together, they can also break apart easily and become airborne where they can be inhaled. While the cement is solid, these fibers will stay in place, but while it was being mixed or if the cement cracks, breaks, or chips the fibers can be released. Inhaling or ingesting asbestos can result in diseases like asbestosis, lung cancer, or mesothelioma.