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Some wood-burning stoves can allow asbestos to become airborne

There is nothing quite like sitting in front of a warm fireplace on a chilly day. A wood-burning stove can help you heat your home and can be a place for your family to gather during cold months.

Although wood-burning stoves are enjoyable to use, you may need to take appropriate care before using one. You may find several products containing asbestos in and around the fireplace in your home.

Asbestos is a mineral fiber that is known to cause certain aggressive forms of cancer, such as mesothelioma, when it is inhaled. Because of its resistance to heat and fire, asbestos was a popular component in building materials for many years, including materials used in and around wood-burning stoves. Unfortunately, as those products deteriorate over time, the asbestos fibers can become airborne.

Several parts of a wood-burning stove could contain asbestos

Your wood-burning stove, itself, could contain asbestos components, as could the insulation materials around it. Some fireplace components that could contain asbestos, include:

  • Millboard
  • Cement sheet
  • Asbestos paper
  • Asbestos tape
  • Door gaskets
  • Pads and trivets for cook-top surfaces

Although asbestos is heat and fire resistant, heat and fire can still degrade the quality of the materials over time. This can cause the pieces to crumble and the particles to become airborne.

A damaged chimney flue could allow asbestos into the home

Another possible concern with your wood-burning stove is the chimney flue, which channels exhaust gasses outside your home. In homes built before 1980 it was common to line the flue with a cement material called transite. Up to 50% of this material could be asbestos fibers. Although this material was often used in chimney flues, builders could use it in any type of venting flue, such as those connected to water heaters and furnaces.

Transite can break down over time. When this occurs, the flue can become blocked, causing exhaust gasses and asbestos fibers to fill the home.

Professional help may be safest

As you begin prepping your home’s heating system for the chilly months ahead, consider your home’s age. If it is possible that your heating systems contain asbestos, it may be appropriate to have those systems inspected by a professional. Unless you are trained to identify asbestos, it can be difficult to determine if your wood-burning stove or other heating systems contain the substance.

If a professional identifies asbestos products in your home, do not try to remove the product yourself. Professional removal of the product is safest. Finding asbestos in your home does not necessarily pose an immediate risk, but it does not hurt to be cautious.

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