Asbestos has been used as a fire-retardant material in various buildings and houses. Using this material was starting to be limited between 1970 to 1990 to ban it, but until now, many buildings still have asbestos.

It is no secret that asbestos can be very hazardous to human health. Those who come in contact with it are at risk of developing serious illnesses such as mesothelioma and lung cancer. Many people are turning to safer alternatives for insulation and building materials for home renovation and construction projects. Here, we will discuss the historical use of asbestos and its substitutes to use.

Historical Use of Asbestos

use of asbestos

For centuries, people have found asbestos to be a valuable material due to its resilience. However, it wasn’t until the late 19th century, when substantial deposits of asbestos were discovered in Canada and the northern United States, that it became a widely used construction material.

Asbestos was widely used in building materials due to its low cost and abundance during production. Through experimentation, it was found to be highly effective as a fire retardant, an important element of acoustical plaster, and even decorative qualities. The use of asbestos was not limited to the construction industry but was also used in clothes, the automotive industry, and even shipbuilding.

The use of asbestos decreased in the early 1970s after studies revealed its harmful effects on health. Companies started developing alternatives and removing asbestos from the market. Regulations have been established to govern the production and disposal of asbestos materials. As a result, large-scale mining of asbestos has been phased out. 

However, some products still contain asbestos because a viable alternative has yet to be discovered.

Commonly Used Asbestos Alternatives

asbestos alternatives

Due to the health risks of asbestos, it is no longer used for construction projects. Over the past decade, safer alternatives have been developed to replace it. Some of the most frequently used substitutes for asbestos are:

Cellulose Insulation Fiber

Cellulose fiber is a popular and frequently used substitute for asbestos. Its production process is straightforward. Cellulose insulation is created by shredding newsprint into small pieces and treating it chemically to enhance fire resistance and reduce moisture. It is also eco-friendly since it typically contains 85% recycled material.

Polyurethane Foam

The United States has had access to this spray since the late 1960s, which is often used in roofing materials and helps regulate moisture and temperature changes in ventilation systems. This spray is non-toxic and does not emit harmful gasses.

Thermoset Plastic

Plastics such as epoxies, polyesters, and silicones are created by molding liquid or powder into the desired shape. Once molded, these plastics retain their shape indefinitely and serve various purposes, from auto parts to electrical insulation.


Recycled glass can be used to make fiberglass, a safe alternative to insulation containing asbestos. Fiberglass is also very resistant to fire.

Amorphous Silica Fibers

Amorphous silica fabrics are materials designed for insulation and protection at high temperatures. Due to their resistance to burning, mildew growth, and rotting, they are utilized by various industries, including shipyards, electrical, and aerospace. However, these fabrics are not usually employed in residential projects, like home construction or renovation, because they contain fiberglass.

Mineral Wool

This is a fire-resistant insulation option that is a great alternative to asbestos-containing insulation. It usually contains substantial recycled materials and doesn’t need hazardous chemicals to achieve its fire-resistant properties.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Asbestos Substitutes

advantages and disadvantages of substitutes

While there are many advantages to using substitutes instead of asbestos, they also have drawbacks. Let’s take a deeper look at the advantages and disadvantages of asbestos substitutes:


  • Some of the substitute materials are more economical than asbestos.
  • They can be eco-friendly since some are made from recycled materials.
  • They also do not pose any health hazards or environmental risks.
  • They can provide insulation and fire-retardant properties to structures.


  • The substitute materials may not be as strong and resilient as asbestos.
  • Some of them contain fiberglass, which can be hazardous if handled improperly.
  • They may not be as easy to install and require additional installation steps.

Regulations and Standards for Asbestos Substitutes

Before any material is used as an asbestos substitute, it must meet certain standards and regulations set by governing bodies. In the United States, these standards are determined and enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

The EPA’s Asbestos NESHAP Regulation requires contractors to assess whether any materials they plan to use contain asbestos before beginning work. Additionally, substitutes must be proven to be safe and effective before they are used. This includes testing the materials to ensure they meet fire-resistance and temperature regulations.

Your Trusted Asbestos Removal Company!

Asbestos was once a widely used material in the building industry, but its health risks led to it being phased out in favor of safer alternatives. Fortunately, contractors can now access materials that replace asbestos while providing insulation and fire-retardant properties. It is important to research each substitute before using them in any project.

At Clean Cut Abatement, we are a licensed and certified firm removing hazardous material from residential and commercial properties. We can provide proof of all licenses and certifications and ensure that all our certified technicians complete extensive background checks. Our services cover all of Michigan, so no matter the size of your project, Clean Cut Abatement will be there to help! Get in touch with us today!

More On This Topic

How to Identify Asbestos?

How Is Asbestos Removed?

How Much Does Asbestos Removal Cost?

Was Abestos Ever Used in Furniture?