Asbestos shingles, commonly referred to as ACRM (asbestos containing roofing material), were used extensively in buildings and homes from the 1930s until the 1980s, when most asbestos uses were banned. Originally, asbestos was used in shingles for the purpose of fireproofing. However, because asbestos has many strong fibers, adding asbestos to shingles also increased strength and durability, while providing insulation. These qualities made asbestos shingles extremely popular.
Asbestos shingle roofs, as they were once called, present themselves in a variety of styles and sizes. However, contrary to popular belief, asbestos shingle roofs are not made entirely of asbestos. In fact, asbestos shingle roofs are mostly made with cement and usually contain very little asbestos. While asbestos content in shingles will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, shingles’ asbestos content has historically ranged from around 5% to as high as 35%.
Laboratory testing is the only reliable way to determine whether shingles contain asbestos. In addition, where asbestos is present, laboratory testing is the only way to determine the asbestos type. However, asbestos shingles typically contain chrysotile asbestos, which is the most common and least lethal form of asbestos.
Asbestos Shingle Health Risks
When asbestos shingles are in good condition and intact, they are not dangerous. However, when old asbestos shingles begin to crack and crumble, tiny asbestos fibers may be emitted into the air where people and pets can inhale them. It is this that makes asbestos dangerous.
Because asbestos is only dangerous when inhaled or ingested, leaving asbestos shingles alone is often the best way to avoid health risks. Where asbestos shingles are damaged, the best way to prevent asbestos exposure is to cover or seal the shingles. Removing damaged asbestos shingles should always be the last resort because removing them damages the shingles even more, creating an increased risk for asbestos exposure.
Asbestos Shingles & Construction Workers
Because building roofs with asbestos shingles requires cutting and sanding the shingles, construction workers, especially the roofers who installed asbestos shingles, likely were exposed to high levels of asbestos every day. While it is unknown how much exposure to asbestos it takes to cause serious illness, prolonged asbestos exposure increases health risks. As a result, construction workers and roofers who worked around asbestos shingles have a high risk for developing asbestos-related illnesses.
If you have been injured from asbestos shingles, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.