Eight Asbestos Alternatives

Asbestos has an astonishingly long list of benefits. It’s durable, insulating, heat- and chemical-resistant, sound-dampening, and non-conductive. It’s also abundant in nature and very affordable. No wonder this product was used for decades in thousands of products across countless industries! There’s just one problem—asbestos causes cancer and other life-threatening diseases when its microscopic airborne fibers are inhaled.

As the dangers of asbestos surfaced around the 1970s, it became clear that manufacturers needed to find asbestos alternatives. Learn about the substitutes for asbestos that have been used for years and continue to be installed in homes, businesses, and other settings where old asbestos products are still being replaced.

  1. Polyurethane foam, available since the 1960s, combines the best qualities of plastic and rubber. It can control moisture and regulate temperature changes in ventilation systems without releasing toxic gases or harmful particles. Some common applications for polyurethane foam include roofing, flotation devices, car upholstery, and movie theater seats.
  2. Thermoset plastics—including epoxies, polyesters, and silicones—are created by heating a liquid or powder and molding it into the desired form. Once cured, thermoset plastics hold their shape forever. They are used in electrical applications, auto parts, agricultural feeding troughs, cell towers, heat shields, and more.
  3. Fiberglass is one of the most common alternatives for asbestos insulation. It’s made of plastic reinforced with tiny glass fibers coated with a liquid binder. You can find fiberglass insulation in blanket, batt, or loose-fill form. Because this product contains glass, it’s important to wear protective gear when handling or installing it. However, unlike asbestos, fiberglass is not considered a long-term health hazard.
  4. Cellulose is another asbestos insulation alternative made of finely shredded newspaper. While it contains up to 85 percent recycled material, cellulose must be chemically treated to reduce water absorption and increase fire resistance.
  5. Mineral wool is an ideal asbestos insulation substitute because it contains a high percentage of post-consumer recycled materials and does not require the application of harmful chemicals to be fire-resistant.
  6. Hemp, sheep’s wool, straw, and cotton are natural materials that can serve as effective insulating products. They must be treated with borate to render them resistant to pests and fire.
  7. Flour fillers may be made of wheat, rice, or pecan shells. They are used as crack and crevice fillers to reduce air filtration and improve insulation ratings. Best of all, this all-natural asbestos alternative poses no safety risks.
  8. Amorphous silica fabrics are used to insulate and protect workers in high-temperature settings. The electrical, nautical, and aerospace industries all utilize this material, which does not burn, rot, or harbor mold growth.

Vogelzang Law is a personal injury law firm dedicated to representing asbestos exposure victims nationwide. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, you could be entitled to compensation. Contact our law office in Chicago, IL or Grand Rapids, MI to learn how we can help you fight for justice.