Asbestos in Paint
Asbestos paint was used from the early 20th century until approximately 1990 in commercial, industrial, and marine applications. Asbestos improved the quality, durability, and appearance of paint, but these benefits came at the unreasonable cost of harming human health. People exposed to asbestos paint in their homes and workplaces 20, 30, or 40 years ago still face the harmful effects today.
Asbestos was once considered a miracle mineral because it is indestructible, strong, flexible, abundant, and inexpensive. It seemed to enhance every product it touched, including paint. Unfortunately, asbestos in paint has caused thousands of people to contract incurable health conditions decades after the first exposure.
Although the use of asbestos paint ceased around 1990, it can still be found in homes, factories, ships, and office buildings. Exposure to asbestos in paint is as hazardous today as when initially applied.
Why was asbestos used in paint?
Asbestos provides a myriad of improvements to paint including the following, according to PCI Magazine:
- It helped paint maintain its suspension so it only had to be stirred once.
- It improved the way paint spread.
- It enhanced the sticking powers of paint.
- It made the paint more opaque, so fewer layers were required.
- It added fire resistance.
Asbestos was lightweight, chemically inert, non-conductive, and resistant to corrosion, all of which added to the value it brought to paint.
How can I tell if paint contains asbestos?
It is impossible to discern whether paint contains asbestos by merely looking at it. Asbestos fibers are microscopic, and their existence can only be ruled out by professional testing. Three of the most common methods of detecting asbestos are as follows:
- Polarizing light microscopy
- Scanning electron microscopy
- Transmission electron microscopy
All of these methods involve specialized microscopes. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, polarizing light microscopy may not capture the smallest asbestos fibers. However, according to Eurofins, an asbestos testing company, polarizing light microscopy is the most common initial testing method.
Scanning electron microscopy can capture the smallest fibers. Transmission electron microscopy can provide a more accurate chemical analysis of the fibers. This method is used as a final clearance method when asbestos is abated in schools.
When was asbestos used in paint?
According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, asbestos was used in paint from the early 1900s until 1990. Asbestos paint may contain as much as 20 percent asbestos. After 1950, its use in paint decreased, and it was primarily used in special textured paints or coatings in home decor until the early 1990s. These paints contained approximately five percent chrysotile asbestos.
Where was asbestos paint used?
According to PCI Magazine, asbestos paint was used in the following applications:
- Shipbuilding and auto manufacturing because it resisted corrosion, kept fires contained, and provided sound insulation
- Industrial installations and office buildings because it reduced fire hazards
- Chemical plants because it was chemically inert
- Residences because it reduced fire hazards, lasted a long time, and was available in a variety of colors and textures
Asbestos paint was valuable for indoor and outdoor applications and was used on bridges, interior walls, exterior walls, and siding. Asbestos paint could be found in schools, homes, public buildings, and commercial buildings.
Asbestos Paint Manufacturers
The following asbestos companies manufactured, distributed, and sold paint that contained asbestos:
- Akzo Nobel Paints LLC
- Amsterdam Color Works
- Kelly Moore Paint Company, Inc.
- Murco Wall Products
- The Sherwin Williams Company
- Purity Paint Products Corporation
- The Glidden Company
- U.S. Gypsum Company
- The Adams Paint Company
- Allen-Lincoln Paint Company
- American Seal Paints and Cements
- Asbestos Fire-Proof Paint Ltd.
- Carter Paint Company
- Cincinnati Standard Asbestos Paint Company
- Clinton Metallic Paint Company
- Connors Paint Mfg. Co.
- Franklin Paint Co.
- Fulton Paint Co.
- Indianapolis Paint and Color Co.
- Iowa Paint Mfg. Co.
- Missouri Paint & Varnish Co.
- Pecora Paint Co.
- Progress Paint Co.
- The Tropical Paint & Oil Co.
- United States Gypsum
How are people exposed to asbestos in paint?
Painters who applied asbestos paint may have experienced exposure to asbestos when the paint dried on their equipment and flaked off, or when they scraped it off. During application, asbestos exposure may have been minimal because the paint was wet.
As long as asbestos paint remains in good condition, the asbestos generally stays encased within the paint and does not become airborne. However, if the paint is damaged, even slightly, asbestos fibers can be released into the environment, where they can be inhaled or ingested.
Although asbestos paint is durable, it can still wear over time, resulting in flaking, peeling, or cracking. Asbestos may also be released when the walls painted with asbestos are punctured, drilled, or cut. Sanding asbestos paint is an incredibly dusty job that can result in significant asbestos exposure.
How should asbestos paint be remedied?
If you have confirmed the presence of asbestos paint in your dwelling or workplace, it is important to leave it undisturbed until it is abated. If it is in good condition and you have no plans to renovate or otherwise disturb it, the asbestos abatement company may recommend painting over it to encapsulate it.
While this is a cost-effective method, the paint may still require removal in the future if you decide to renovate or decorate the area. Even a simple activity like hanging pictures can disturb asbestos.
Asbestos paint removal may be the safest option if the paint is peeling, cracked, or otherwise damaged. Removal will need to be undertaken by a professional asbestos abatement company. The company must employ specialized wetting methods, seal off the area, and wear specialized personal protective equipment.
After the asbestos is removed, it must be disposed of in accordance with guidelines set forth by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the laws of your state and locality.
Asbestos Exposure from Paint
Occupational asbestos exposure may occur while working with asbestos paint or from passive environmental exposure.
Occupational Asbestos Exposure
Painters and other workers may be exposed to asbestos because it is often necessary to cut into a painted wall to access materials behind it. This may include workers in the following occupations:
Environmental Asbestos Exposure
Anyone living or working in an environment with asbestos paint present may also be exposed to asbestos, even if they are not directly working with it. This includes the following:
- School children
- Office workers
Health Effects of Asbestos Exposure in Paint
The International Agency for Research on Cancer analyzed four studies about the effects of asbestos paint exposure on painters. All four studies found that painters with occupational asbestos exposure experienced an increase in mortality from mesothelioma.
Painters also experienced an increase in lung cancer mortality, but asbestos was only one of many chemicals in paint that could have contributed to this. However, asbestos exposure is the only proven cause of mesothelioma.
You Deserve Justice
Our mesothelioma lawyers are passionate about getting justice for individuals diagnosed with mesothelioma from the large companies that wrongfully exposed them to asbestos without their knowledge or consent.
We have an extensive database of asbestos products, and our attorneys can help you determine who exposed you to asbestos so you can hold them accountable.
Our lawyers are nationally recognized with a consistent record of landmark verdicts and settlements. We have more than 25 years of experience helping people diagnosed with asbestos-related illnesses recover substantial compensation, with nearly $20 billion recovered on behalf of our clients.
Contact us today for a free case review.
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Medically Reviewed By: Patricia Shelton