Asbestos boiler insulation

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Old 04-12-15, 04:16 PM
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Asbestos boiler insulation

My 60-year-old gas-fired boiler is insulated with asbestos. The insulation is completely enclosed with metal lagging, so there is no present issue - unless and until I go to replace the boiler, which may not be in my lifetime - but maybe I will be unlucky, and outlive my boiler. Then, I will have to shell out for all the professional asbestos remediation.

Which reminds me. I served in a WW2-era navy destroyer, standing some watches in a fireroom ("boiler room" to most of us). When the 5" guns were fired during gunnery practice, there was a cloud of white powder that rained down in the fireroom due to the shock and vibration. Am I among the walking dead?

Which reminds me of a Kansas City church we belonged to. The boiler had to be removed and replaced. A few of us older men, beyond child-rearing age, gathered on a Saturday morning, broke up the boiler with sledge hammers, and hauled everything away to the dump. Then a new boiler was installed by a contractor without any further issue.

In a month from now, I will be age 73. I will be dead, probably sooner rather than later, but probably not from asbestos exposure.
 
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Old 04-12-15, 04:34 PM
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Am I among the walking dead?
Not neccessarily. It is true that asbestos exposure, along with breathing all sorts of other harmful things (mold, coal dust, corn dust, dust blowing off fields or dirt roads, etc), can eventually cause health problems. I highly doubt than an occasional exposure would cause any health problems. My grandpa smashed lead batteries and asbestos for years in his metal salvage business (way before there were any regulations on that sort of thing) and he lived to 99 1/2 and didn't have any lung problems ever.

But then you hear about someone who was not a smoker who ended up getting lung cancer. So you never know, everyone is different. Something will get each of us eventually. My theory is not to worry overmuch. Take precautions, yes. But I think there is some scripture that says something about how when it comes right down to it, not one of us can add a cubit to our lifespan. Psalms says our years are 70 or 80 if we have special mightiness, and that is the average lifespan of people even today. So I hope you live a good time longer despite any occasional exposure you've had.

I really think most of the ill effects come from constant exposure. Kind of like how someone doesn't get black lung from working in a coal mine for just a year.
 
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Old 04-12-15, 04:47 PM
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I worked in power plants for more than 33 years. Most of them had at least some asbestos and the older ones had literally tons of it. Some of the asbestos was loose and crumbling (friable is the word) and I even worked with asbestos containing pipe insulation and loose mix asbestos compounds, often without even using a cheapo dust mask let alone a respirator listed for asbestos exposure. Maybe ten years or so prior to my retirement the company decided that anyone working in the power plants or with/around asbestos insulated piping needed to be screened for lung damage. We all went through lung capacity testing as well as chest X-rays and the ONLY people that failed the testing were smokers; but being a smoker was an automatic fail regardless of the testing.

I also knew an electrician that worked for the same company. Paul would tell stories of growing up in New York where his father had a plumbing and heating company. Every year he and his father and maybe a helper from the company would break down the furnace or boiler in their house (I don't remember if it was a boiler or an octopus furnace but it was entirely cased in asbestos) and one of Paul's jobs was to break up the old insulation into small pieces (called "shorts") and mix it up with new asbestos insulating powder which was then mixed with water and slathered onto the furnace. This was a common practice prior to the knowledge of asbestos dangers became widespread.

Paul was in his early sixties when I knew him and he had no indication of asbestos-related diseases. He did tell me that many of the people that he knew over the years that had worked with asbestos were now (then) dead but he also stated that every single one of them was also a heavy smoker. He had never been a smoker and he told me that others he knew that worked with asbestos but had never smoked lived to be old men.

Earlier this year I had to go through a battery of tests that included numerous chest X-rays, nuclear testing of blood and air flow in my lungs as well as lung capacity testing. All of these tests were completely negative to any abnormalities no matter what the causative factor. I'll add that I might have smoked at most a dozen cigarettes in my lifetime and all of them prior to my fourteenth birthday. I'll be 65 in about two months.

Now I don't mean to state that asbestos is a benign material, it isn't. But I DO think that based upon my completely non-scientific survey neither do I believe that casual short-term exposure to asbestos or asbestos-containing materials (ACM) is any kind of death sentence. That IS predicated on a person NOT being (or having been) a smoker during the time of exposure. The mere fact that you have lived to the age of 73 is a testament to your longevity and barring any other ailments I suspect that you will live for quite a few more years.
 
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Old 04-12-15, 04:54 PM
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I really think most of the ill effects come from constant exposure.
I have the notion that many of the asbestos issues are encountered by mechanics than frequently worked on automobile brakes.

I am interested in antique radios. Some of them had a small, thin asbestos-based pad between the wooden cabinet and the radio chassis. Some newbie radio collectors are terrified by that.
 
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Old 04-12-15, 05:05 PM
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I think that most people, especially urban dwellers under the age of forty, are terrified of asbestos. There is absolutely no doubt that asbestos is a killer when a person is exposed to high airborne content over a period of decades but the average person walking the streets is more likely to die from exposure to ultraviolet light (sunshine) as they are to asbestos.

In this area I think the government and the asbestos abatement people have done a wonderful job of misinformation.
 
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Old 04-12-15, 05:35 PM
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the government and the asbestos abatement people have done a wonderful job of misinformation.
Assisted by the trial lawyers.
 
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Old 04-15-15, 02:19 PM
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asbestos

I love to hear about "old timers" who have asbestos exposure and are still kicking.
I'm 65 and was involved in the auto repair business for 11 years in the 70's-lots of brake and clutch jobs (asbestos). I was a heavy cigarette smoker for about 5 years prior to the auto repair work. Then worked for 34 years in a facilities maintenance position which included boiler operation ( several "old timer" Cleaver Brooks), water treatment, sewer treatment, you name it. Lots of outdoor, fresh air work also. I haven't taken the best care of myself, but I still walk 2-3 miles several times a week, and I love taking my grandkids boating, fishing, shooting, and other outdoor activities whenever I can. Hope to be able to continue tor a good many more years!

Steve
 
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