For a long time those who worked installing insulation were referred to as asbestos workers because asbestos was an extremely common material used for insulating. Insulation made of asbestos was found, and still can be found, wrapped around just about any piece of equipment where heat or fire was an issue. This includes generators, boilers, furnaces, ovens, pipes, and electrical wires. Anyone who may have worked with or around this type of equipment could have faced exposure to the asbestos insulation that was being used.
Insulation must usually be cut to fit into whatever piece of equipment it is meant to protect. Anytime asbestos insulation was cut, sanded, sawed, or ground, tiny asbestos fibers were released into the air. Once in the air, they could easily be ingested into the body in some manner. Insulation workers often did not wear any protective gear, let alone breathing equipment. Even vermiculite, a safe insulation material, may be contaminated with asbestos, since the two minerals are often found in the same deposits.
But it wasn’t just the workers who were exposed. Homeowners who installed their own insulation could have been in danger. However, by the mid 1970s there were warnings issued about the dangers of asbestos and asbestos-related products had begun to come off the market. Though most insulation no longer contains asbestos, it has not been completely banned in all products, and some older buildings may still contain asbestos insulation. Those performing renovations on homes or offices should contact a licensed abatement professional if they suspect the presence of asbestos.