Asbestos has some very favorable characteristics that has led to its use by many societies of the past few thousand years. Historically it was used by Egyptians, Romans, Europeans in textiles because of its fire resistance properties. More recently, asbestos has been used in a variety of materials including floor tiles, drywall, roofing materials, pipe insulation, blown insulation, transite siding, transite pipes, drywall mud, gaskets, duct tapes, acoustical textures (popcorn ceilings), artificial embers and fire resistant boards surrounding stoves.
Many of these materials were used in building homes prior to 1980. After 1980 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prohibited the sale of many of these products. Although all the asbestos mines in the United States have shut down, asbestos is still being mined outside the US in places such as Canada and China. Foreign countries may not regulate asbestos to the extent that the governments in the United States do. This means that there are opportunities for asbestos laden materials to enter the US in common products and there have been occasions in the ‘90’s and ‘00’s when such materials have been used in construction in the US.
It is very important to understand that asbestos may be present in a variety of locations throughout the building before doing any renovations or demolition that may disturb asbestos fibers and release them into the air.