Many Homes and other Buildings Constructed Before the 1980s contained Asbestos Ducting that Should Be Removed

The insulation in older homes and businesses is usually laced with asbestos. Most construction companies know that, so their employees take special precautions when working with the insulation. However, most people don’t know that the HVAC ducts in older buildings usually contain asbestos as well. That asbestos is a hazard not only for construction workers, but also for people who live and work there.

Why to Remove Asbestos Ducting from Your Home or Workplace

Ductwork in older homes and businesses is very solid. But nothing lasts forever. That’s especially true since ductwork is subject to a lot of wear and tear. So, tiny flaws, such as hairline fissures in asbestos-laced wrapping paper, are almost inevitable. 

In very old buildings, like those built before 1950, builders wrapped all the ductwork with asbestos paper. Between about 1950 and 1980, as the hazards of asbestos became more widely known, builders only wrapped joints and fixtures in asbestos paper.

Today, the hazards of asbestos are more widely known than ever. So, if you own or operate an older building and a visitor develops an asbestos-related illness, even many decades later, you could be legally responsible for damages (as a landowner). To minimize your liability, and more importantly to protect visitors’ health and safety, keep reading this blog.

Identifying Asbestos Ducts

Only laboratory tests can determine the type of asbestos fiber or the presence (or absence) of asbestos dust in the air. However, a simple visual inspection usually confirms, or denies, the presence of asbestos-laced paper. Builders in this era never used look-alike products. 

Click here to see some pictures. The white stuff that looks like paper wrapping the entire duct, or looks like tape reinforcing the joints, is lined with asbestos.

As long as the paper is in one piece, there’s no risk of exposure. The asbestos fibers are embedded in the paper. Once that paper frays, everyone is at risk. A single asbestos fiber can cause a wide range of serious, and often fatal, diseases, like asbestosis and cancers like mesothelioma.

Normally, the asbestos paper surrounds tubes. Any stray fibers float in the neighborhood. They aren’t shot out of the air duct into a room. Therefore, if you get ahead of the problem, there’s a chance to address the hazard without vacating the building.

Incidentally, builders often used asbestos-laced paper to protect electrical wiring around the duct. Be on the lookout for these hazards as well, if you inspect the ductwork.

Before you look, perform an air quality test throughout the building. Usually, a professional needs to handle this chore. If the air quality test shows asbestos contamination above 0.1 fibers/cc (cubic centimeter of air), stop, do not pass Go, and do not collect $200. The risk of exposure is so great that the building needs to be vacated and most likely demolished. More on that below.

Landowner Liability Matters with Asbestos Exposure

Before we get there, let’s talk about some liability issues connected to asbestos exposure, so that both landowners and victims know their rights and responsibilities.

Generally, landowners have a duty of care to address injury hazards on their property that they know about, or should know about. Older buildings normally include asbestos-laced products and failing duct work. One plus one is two. So, even if they’ve never tested for asbestos, liability usually attaches. Willful blindness (opting not to inspect and claiming you had no idea) generally isn’t a defense in these cases.

You Could Be Liable for Not Inspecting If Your Building Contains Asbestos

Conclusively proving an asbestos fiber came from a certain building is almost like conclusively proving a grain of pollen came from a certain lawn. Unfortunately for landowners, and fortunately for victims, civil court plaintiffs don’t have to conclusively prove anything. They must only establish facts by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). If you lived or worked in an asbestos-laced building, more likely than not, that building is the contamination source.

Asbestos Removal Issues

If the aforementioned air quality test is well below the threshold level, covering the asbestos-laced paper is probably the way to go. Consult with a professional as to the necessary covering materials. Duct tape might do the trick.

Protect yourself when you cover the paper. Wear a hazmat suit that completely covers all of your skin. After you finish, promptly dispose of all clothing and tools.

An air quality reading in the danger zone, maybe above 0.075 fibers/cc, probably requires more extensive renovation. An asbestos removal company should replace the duct work. If the ductwork is extremely old, such an approach might be a good idea anyway. If significant amounts of asbestos have leaked into the air, fire protection suffers.

Full asbestos removal is quite expensive. Removal costs have increased significantly in recent years. Disposal costs have increased even more. However, especially if you plan to stay in the building, complete removal is the way to go. A sale would probably go through, as long as the asbestos air quality level is below 0.1 fiber/cc.


If you may have been exposed to asbestos, speak with your healthcare provider about tests and screening to help detect the presence of asbestos fibers and asbestos-related damage.

AsbestosClaims.Law is your comprehensive resource for all things asbestos. We hope this information helps you.

If you believe that your home was contaminated with asbestos, you could be entitled to significant compensation—money you could use to cover the costs of asbestos removal services, pay for medical treatment, and preemptively protect your physical well-being. 

In addition to legal claims, veterans disability, social security and employment protection like workers compensation, FELA and The Jones Act for maritime workers, there are asbestos trusts that have been set up to compensate those harmed by asbestos without having to file a lawsuit.
If you have any additional questions or concerns related to asbestos, including testing for exposure or how to file a claim, please get in touch by email at [email protected], or call or text us at (833) 4-ASBESTOS (427-2378) or (206) 455-9190.