9 Min Read
Last Updated: 05/17/2024
Fact Checked

Written by Michelle Whitmer | Scientifically Reviewed By Sean Fitzgerald, PG | Edited By Walter Pacheco

Quick Facts About Asbestos Insulation
  • calendar icon
    Years Produced:
    1866 – 1978
  • grey magnifying glass icon
    Places Used:
    Attics, ceilings, walls and basements in residential and commercial construction as well as around pipes, boilers, furnaces and electrical boxes
  • radiation hazard sign icon
    Toxicity:
    High
  • skip icon
    Asbestos Use Banned:
    No
  • outline of a gray lightning bolt
    Friable:
    Yes

What Is Asbestos Insulation?

Pipe near rafters with damaged asbestos insulation
Damaged asbestos insulation around pipes in basements presents an exposure risk.

Asbestos insulation is a building material that contains asbestos, a naturally occurring, toxic mineral that can cause mesothelioma, asbestos lung cancer and other serious health complications. There are multiple types of asbestos insulation, including block, loose fill, spray-on and wrap. 

Insulation containing asbestos was commonly used in residential, commercial and industrial buildings until the late 1970s. The unique physical characteristics of its fibers makes asbestos resistant to heat. 

Federal regulations limiting its use eventually prompted businesses to phase asbestos out. However, many older buildings still contain asbestos materials that pose health risks.

Companies Associated With Asbestos Insulation

The most notable companies associated with making asbestos insulation in the U.S. include Johns Manville and W.R. Grace and Company. Many asbestos insulation companies filed for bankruptcy protection after being named as defendants in lawsuits.

Asbestos Insulation Companies

  • Armstrong Contracting and Supply
  • Certainteed Corporation
  • Celotex
  • Combustion Engineering
  • Crown Cork & Seal
  • E. Thurston & Sons
  • EaglePicher
  • Ehret Magnesia
  • E.J. Bartells Company
  • GAF Corporation
  • Garlock Sealing Technologies
  • Johns Manville
  • Kaiser Aluminum
  • Keasbey & Mattison
  • Metalclad Insulation Corporation
  • National Gypsum
  • Nicolet
  • Owens Corning
  • Owens-Illinois
  • P. Green Industries
  • Pacor Incorporated
  • Pittsburgh Corning
  • Quigley Co.
  • Rock Wool Manufacturing
  • Shook & Fletcher
  • The Flintkote Company
  • Unarco
  • United States Gypsum Company
  • Western MacArthur
  • W.R. Grace

Establishing a trust fund is a common component of the bankruptcy process. Johns Manville, Owens Corning, National Gypsum and W.R. Grace all have trust funds. Former workers and others exposed to asbestos products can seek compensation from these funds to cover medical and related expenses. 

Brands Associated With Asbestos Insulation

Several brands have a connection with asbestos insulation. These companies produced a large portion of the materials used in residential and commercial buildings. Some are more widely known than others.

Air Cell, Marinite, Suprex & Thermobestos

Air Cell, Marinite, Superex and Thermobestos were asbestos insulation brands from Johns Manville, which is among the most well-known asbestos-related companies.

Air Cell Sectional Pipe Covering
Air Cell & Hy-Temp

Nicolet Keasbey & Mattison also had a brand of pipe insulation called Air Cell. Once one of the largest asbestos-producing companies in the world, the company produced industrial products including Hy-Temp insulation from its Ambler, Pa., headquarters.

Asbestos pipe insulation labeled with a bright orange tag printed with information indicating
Armatemp & Hi-Temp

Armstrong Contracting and Supply brands of asbestos insulation included Armatemp and Hi-Temp. Products included insulating roof tiles, block, pipe and felt insulation.

Careytemp, Carey Thermalite & Vitricel

Celotex brands include Careytemp, Carey Thermalite and Vitricel. A major manufacturer of asbestos-containing roofing, siding and insulation for residential and commercial buildings, Celotex also owned asbestos mines.

Gold Bond

Materials bearing the popular Gold Bond brand were among National Gypsum’s asbestos brands. The company was a major manufacturer of asbestos wallboard, roofing and several types of ceiling panels.

Hylo Block, Supertemp Block & Super 66

Hylo Block, Supertemp Block and Super 66 insulating cement are all brands from manufacturer EaglePicher Industries Inc. The company produced asbestos insulation widely used in military applications.

Bag of insulating cement.
Kaylo

Owens Illinois Glass Company produced Kaylo pipe and block insulations that contained up to 20% asbestos.

Kaylo insulating roof tile.
Limpet

Turner and Newall, a U.K.-based company, produced a wide range of asbestos-containing products, including the widely used Limpet spray. Keasbey & Mattison was sold to Turner and Newell in 1934. Armstrong Contracting and Supply entered into an exclusive licensing agreement to distribute Limpet Asbestos in the U.S. from 1962 to 1967.

Image of vintage container with crocidolite-based sprayed
Zonolite and Monokote

Zonolite and Monokote were brands from asbestos manufacturer W.R. Grace. The company’s mines were once responsible for a large portion of the world’s asbestos products.

Bag of Zonolite asbestos insulation.

Many other companies also used asbestos in insulation and other building materials. As a result, their workers and product end users were exposed to asbestos fibers over long periods. This contributed to a large number of lawsuits. Many asbestos companies established trust funds to handle these claims.

Types of Asbestos Insulation

There are several types of asbestos insulation with varying uses ranging from construction to industrial applications. The four main types are block, loose-fill, spray-on and wrap.  

Additionally, these insulation products use more than one type of asbestos. The exact structure of the mineral determines its best use. Types of asbestos include amosite, anthophyllite, chrysotile, crocidolite, tremolite and actinolite.

Asbestos blocks
Block

A common form of asbestos wall insulation, builders glued these blocks of almost pure asbestos to walls.

Loose-fill asbestos insulation
Loose-fill

This is a fluffy mixture of high-asbestos content insulation that workers blow into cavities and open spaces. It is particularly dangerous because it is easily disturbed by air currents.

Spray-on asbestos
Spray-on

The application of spray insulation requires less labor, making it a popular choice. The airborne application makes this type especially harmful to workers.

Asbestos pipe wrapping
Wrap

Multiple types of wrap insulation exist, primarily in industrial settings. Asbestos pipe insulation and valve fitting covers were popular options.

Other types of asbestos insulation include cement, plaster, electrical panels and certain batt insulation products. Combined, these forms of asbestos contributed to widespread exposure for workers and their household members. Many people faced exposure to multiple types of asbestos in mining, manufacturing and other trades.

Zonolite Insulation

Zonolite insulation in an attic
Many homeowners installed Zonolite attic insulation until 1984.

Reaching peak use in the 1960s,  Zonolite insulation was a product of the W.R. Grace and Company’s Libby, Mo., mine. It was a vermiculite-based insulation with tremolite asbestos contaminants.

Documents from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Agency for Toxic Substances estimate that some 30 million homes may still have Zonolite asbestos insulation in their attics. Because it’s hazardous even at low levels, this poses a serious health risk to residents who may be unaware of the danger.

Mr. Fluffy Insulation

Asbestosfluf insulation vintage ad
Australian homeowners widely used Mr. Fluffy asbestos insulation, also known as Asbestosfluf, throughout the country.

Asbestosfluf asbestos attic insulation is a loose-fill product that was popular in Australia during the 1960s and 1970s. Its manufacturer was commonly known as Mr. Fluffy because of the product’s cottony appearance.

Recognizing the hazards of Asbestosfluf insulation, the Australian government conducted a widespread campaign to remove it from homes in the 1980s. However, dust from the product was pervasive, and even homes that had all of the asbestos insulation removed were still contaminated.

Survivor Story
Julie K. Pleural Mesothelioma

Survivor Was Exposed to Asbestos Insulation

Survivor Story

Julie K. has survived more than 30 years since her pleural mesothelioma diagnosis. She believes her diagnosis was the result of asbestos exposure when she was a child. Her father was an electrical engineer who used to bring home asbestos insulation to wrap around the radiator pipes they used to heat the older house where she grew up. The head of Julie’s bed was adjacent to the heater.

Read Julie’s Story

What Diseases Can Asbestos Insulation Cause?

Asbestos insulation can cause serious diseases including mesothelioma and asbestos lung cancer. Because the body cannot break down or expel asbestos fibers, when they’re inhaled they can accumulate in the lungs and cause inflammation, scarring and other damage.

Asbestos fibers cause the root of mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer. Asbestos fibers get lodged in the pleural lining of the lung and inflammation and genetic changes happen.

Other major health complications are also directly related to asbestos exposure. Asbestos-related diseases include pleural plaques, ovarian cancer, pleural effusions and asbestosis.

Occupations With Asbestos Insulation Exposure Risks

Historically, most asbestos diseases are related to occupational exposure in fields such as mining, construction and manufacturing. Working around asbestos, workers inhaled large amounts of asbestos fibers over prolonged periods, increasing their risk.

Occupational Asbestos Exposure
  • Construction workers
  • Electricians
  • Factory workers
  • Insulators
  • Plumbers and pipefitters

While asbestos is no longer used in residential construction, some industrial applications still use it. Therefore, certain workers continue to face asbestos exposure today. Asbestos manufacturing workers, firefighters, insulators and military service members are all at high risk.

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Compensation for Exposure to Asbestos Insulation

Individuals who face health consequences from asbestos exposure can seek compensation from insulation manufacturers. Many of them have established trust funds to pay legal awards. 

In addition to negligence in creating unsafe working conditions, many companies were also reckless. As a result, juries may award punitive damages to workers who develop health complications from these actions.

Notable Asbestos Verdicts
  • $38M Verdict: In September 2023, a jury found Burnham LLC mostly responsible for lung cancer in a construction demolition worker. The plaintiff received compensation and punitive damages.
  • $6M Verdict: A jury found Ford Motor Company responsible for the mesothelioma death of a former worker. The court awarded her family a $6 million dollar verdict in November 2022.
  • $4M Verdict: A federal jury found BNSF Railway responsible for the death of two former workers. Each family received a $4 million award.

If you or a loved one faced occupational asbestos exposure, consult with an experienced asbestos attorney. They’ll review your case and determine your likelihood of success. Many companies settle asbestos lawsuits without going to court.  

How to Handle and Dispose of Asbestos Insulation  

Handling asbestos is dangerous, and home and business owners should leave it to trained professionals. Asbestos abatement companies will test for hazardous materials and use proper precautions to reduce the risk of contamination to surrounding areas of the building.

You shouldn’t attempt to handle or dispose of asbestos insulation on your own. If you suspect asbestos is in your home, don’t touch it. Instead, call an asbestos abatement company with removal experience.

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