While most products manufactured today are free of asbestos, many insulation materials and construction products used before the late 1970s contained asbestos. In homes built before 1980, asbestos was often used in attics, basements and roofs. Fluffy gray or white asbestos functioned as heat and acoustical insulation in and around sewer and water pipes, ducts, electrical wiring, stovepipe rings, linoleum and vinyl flooring, shingles and acoustic tiles. It was placed in areas occupied by artificial fireplaces, furnaces, boilers and incinerators.
Asbestos was also mixed into materials, meaning it cannot be seen by someone looking for it. Asbestos was mixed into siding, cement, plaster, stucco, caulking, joint compounds and textured paints.
Even newer homes may contain asbestos. Some materials with trace amounts of asbestos are still sold and used. The asbestos fibers in these products generally remain tightly bound in the materials. These products include floor tile, mastic adhesive and roofing tar.
Products usually bear labels indicating asbestos content when asbestos exceeds 1 percent of the material. Homeowners should realize that lack of asbestos labeling does not mean asbestos is not present. Only lab analysis or manufacturer certification guarantees that material is asbestos-free.
Homeowners should note that older appliances opened up for repair may release asbestos fibers. Even recently made barbecue mitts, protective aprons and gloves may contain asbestos. These items should be discarded when damaged.