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Fire protection is an inherent requirement in many industries, and it is essential for the safety of buildings. For most of the twentieth century, a major solution to fire protection and safety was asbestos. Asbestos was very much seen as a wonder mineral. Unfortunately, while this material can offer heat resistance up to 800°C, it is also potentially lethal to humans. But asbestos alternatives exist.
Consequently, the same industries, and more, which were once dependent on asbestos for fire protection and fire resistance are now having to find safe asbestos alternatives.
As specialists in fire protection, Elmelin provides specialist alternatives to asbestos, using products based on mica and microporous technology.
Why Asbestos is Lethal
HSE points out that asbestos kills around 5,000 workers each year in the UK. When materials containing asbestos are disturbed or damaged, they release fibres into the air. If inhaled, these fibres can cause diseases which can be fatal.
The effects are not immediate, as these diseases take time to develop. However, once they are diagnosed, it is usually too late to do anything about them.
The diseases that asbestos can cause are:
–Mesothelioma – a cancer that affects the lining of the lungs and is almost always fatal
–Asbestosis – a scarring condition of the lung, which causes shortness of breath and can be life-threatening
–Asbestos-related lung cancer – the same as lung cancer caused by smoking
–Pleural thickening – the lining of the lung swells and thickens, usually occurring following heavy asbestos exposure.
The problem is that asbestos is found in a great many places, including industrial, commercial and residential properties. It has been commonly used as an insulating material, has also been included in the manufacture of ceiling tiles, textured coatings, corrugated cement sheets, floor tiles and pipework. Asbestos is also sometimes present in brake pads, gaskets, electrical wire insulation and furnaces.
Asbestos is versatile, which has contributed to its widespread use. While its raw fibres are silk-like in their softness, manufacturing processes can also produce asbestos that is rock-solid.
Anyone working with asbestos should take the necessary precaution to protect themselves, but the best precaution of all is to find a safe asbestos alternative.
Various new technologies have emerged in the wake of the growing awareness of the risks associated with asbestos. These include: polyurethane foams; flour fillers; thermoset plastic flour; cellulose fibres; and amorphous silica fabrics.
Asbestos itself had so much of a universal application that it has proved impossible to find a single substitute. However, some asbestos alternatives are more versatile than others.
One solution for high temperature insulation that, like asbestos, is mineral-based and has a wide variety of uses, is mica. Unlike asbestos, mica is safe.
Mica is a rock-forming silicate material and used with microporous technology, it provides a broad range of insulation and fire protection solutions across many different sectors and industries.
High Temperature Insulation
Microporous materials containing mica are effective in high temperature insulation for different industries, including foundry and steel, continuous processing and transport.
Here, there is an ongoing requirement for heat resistant materials for insulation and specialist functions such as heat shields. Mica and microporous insulation materials offer all the benefits of asbestos with none of the risks.
Fire safety in industry cuts across sectors, and requires solutions that are highly functional and adaptable.
In many instances, people will come into close contact with high temperature insulation materials as part of their daily working lives, so providing a safe but technically viable asbestos alternative is a fundamental requirement for safety in the workplace.
Traditionally, asbestos has been widely used in construction as an essential component in ensuring building have the right degree of fire protection.
This has, in effect, turned asbestos into a hidden threat, with it being used in so many different construction materials.
One aspect of fire safety in buildings is passive fire protection. This involves measures designed to contain a blaze and stop it from spreading throughout a structure.
Microporous technology now provides linings for fire doors and lift doors, to help with passive fire protection measures. These insulation boards are thin but hardwearing, and offer excellent resistance to fire and heat.
Fire safety is a continual requirement for a great many industries. These industries can no longer rely on asbestos as a solution. What they can do, however, is explore the versatility of mica, mica-based products and microporous technology as contemporary solutions to fire protection, insulation and fire safety.
Are You Looking for Asbestos Alternatives?
Elmelin specialises in providing manufactured solutions for high temperature insulation, thermal control, heat resistance and fire protection. We provide both off-the-shelf and bespoke solutions, depending on your needs.