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Asbestos in Steam Pipes

The use of asbestos has been largely eliminated from most modern products. However, older products and parts may contain asbestos in large quantities. As a general rule of thumb, something built or installed prior to 1980 should be checked for asbestos before work is performed. One potential area of concern is the use of asbestos in steam pipes.

Steam pipes are pipes that are used to carry hot steam from one part of a building to another. They are a common older form of heating buildings if the warmth is allowed to dissipate. If not used for heat, they are good for removing heat associated with a variety of products within a building.

Because steam is inherently hot, any item that conveys it needs to be built in a way that will prevent anyone near the pipe from being injured as well as preventing surrounding areas from getting too hot and starting a fire. The insulation around a steam pipe needs to be durable and very effective. Since asbestos met both of those requirements, it was commonly used to cover steam pipes.

When used to insulate steam pipes, asbestos could be found in two main forms. Asbestos was either in an asbestos “blanket” wrapped completely around the steam pipes or in asbestos paper tape. Either option contains enough asbestos to be a health hazard if the steam pipe insulation is disturbed.

Until the asbestos blanket or paper tape is disturbed or allowed to decay, it is relatively safe. The danger is in disturbing the asbestos or not being aware of its existence prior to starting work.

For more information on asbestos in steam pipes, please call 1-800-781-3955.

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