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Are you living in a home covered in siding that is not made of wood, aluminum or vinyl? Does it have a woodgrain pattern? If you answered yes and your home was constructed before 1970, there is a good chance that the siding on your house is made of asbestos cement boards or asbestos wood-look cement shingles.
Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral that can be pulverized and woven into fiber. It was used throughout the twentieth century to strengthen and fireproof cement boards, asphalt tile, shingles, and many other building and insulation products. Unfortunately, crushed asbestos is composed of microscopic fibers that can penetrate the lining of the lungs and other organs when inhaled, causing cancer and other diseases, including the deadly asbestos cancer mesothelioma.
Asbestos cement boards were first patented in 1900, when Ludwig Hatschek was seeking to strengthen cement in his native Germany. He experimented by mixing clay with asbestos fibers instead of the more typical sand and gravel of his time. Hatschek’s composite boards quickly gained worldwide popularity, chiefly because the addition of asbestos instead of sand and gravel created cement panels that were only one-fifth the weight of traditional cement boards and did not need to be nearly as thick to afford the same strength. They were also fireproof and soundproof.
By 1910, Hatschek’s Eternit brand asbestos cement boards were being manufactured in the United States, sparking an explosion of asbestos-cement products produced by American manufacturers that continued unabated into the 1970s. Soon building codes in municipalities throughout the country mandated the use of asbestos cement boards in apartment high-rises and office skyscrapers to reduce the danger of fire spreading from one unit to another and from one floor to the next.
Exterior home siding made of asbestos cement proliferated during the second half of the 1900s and could be purchased as regular stock or special-ordered at almost any hardware store in America. Pre-fabricated asbestos siding offered homeowners an extremely lightweight, strong and fireproof option to traditional wood siding. As an added bonus, the asbestos siding was also termite-proof and weather resistant.
Several prominent building manufacturers produced exterior home siding that contained asbestos, including National Gypsum Company’s Gold Bond Asbestone siding and Johns Manville’s Cedargrain. The GAF-Ruberoid Company sold their Asbestos Panelstone, Shake-Tex and Grain-Tex exterior siding sheets in a variety of colors, grains, patterns and thicknesses, offering homeowners a wide selection of decorative options at an affordable price.
What these and other manufacturers failed to disclose, however, as they raked in millions of dollars in profits from siding and other asbestos-containing building products, was that inhaling asbestos fibers could have deadly consequences. Some manufacturers knew as early as the 1930s that asbestos was toxic, but they chose to suppress that information and put the carcinogen in their products anyway. Thousands of people who installed asbestos siding developed asbestos-related diseases as a result, and many have sued siding manufacturers over the companies’ willful disregard for the health and safety of those who were exposed to dangerous asbestos fibers in their products.
Living in a home covered with asbestos siding does not mean you or your family members are certain to develop an asbestos-related disease. If the siding is in good condition, it might be able to remain in place. However, if your asbestos cement siding has deteriorated and is crumbling, which releases the dangerous microscopic asbestos fibers into the air, you should contact your county’s health department or a certified building expert to determine the local regulations for testing and safe abatement.
Cutting through asbestos siding with a handsaw or a power saw releases asbestos dust into the air all around whoever is doing the sawing, as well as anyone else in the vicinity. So, while it might be legal in your state to remove asbestos siding yourself, you’ll want to comply thoroughly with your municipality’s safety requirements if you choose to do so. You might also be able to cover the siding to protect it against further deterioration. This is called encapsulation, but ultimately the building code in your jurisdiction will determine what options are available to you.
If you are considering filing a lawsuit for your mesothelioma diagnosis, it is important to seek legal counsel as soon as possible. Baron & Budd can help. Contact us online or call us at 855-280-7664 for a confidential evaluation and to learn more about your legal options.