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I am in the process of removing an old coal furnace. after removing the natural gas conversion kit I now see some type of loose filler or insulation which was present around the conversion kit pipe. There is also a substance that looks like joint compound which was used to adhere the sheet metal plate to the furnace opening.

How likely is it that either of these substances contain asbestos? Is it possible to tell from a visual examination? The kit says 1979 on it, so I assume the conversion happened in the 80s. I'm pretty well past my prime, and I am the only person living in the house. How risky would it really be for me just to put on a dust mask and sweep this stuff out of there? Thanks in advance for any knowledge or advice that you are willing to share. Furnace Opening enter image description here

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    From a CYA/CMA/COA perspective, no one here should tell you "it's ok" to just do it. But I know that in my state (as an example) the laws always allowed the homeowner to do it themselves, obviously at their own risk. Anywhoo - I'd suggest it is highly likely asbestos is present in some fashion. Did you know asbestos occurs naturally? We all breath it daily but in microscopic doses. If you do decide to clean it up yourself, avoid vacuuming and sweeping. Minimize disturbing it, keep area ventilated, and throw away anything you use. That with a mask should minimize unnecessary exposure – noybman Jan 24 '18 at 3:58
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    If it is asbestos, and you care at all about your health. You'll want to wear a respirator, not just a simple dust mask. Also, keep it damp to reduce the chances of it becoming airborne. Make sure you seal the containers that you put it in, so that you don't put yourself or others at risk. By telling you all this, I am NOT telling you to do it yourself. – Tester101 Jan 24 '18 at 11:26
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    hosing it all down and using spray bottles to keep down dust would be highly effective. afaik, one exposure never caused meso, just like one cigarette won't cause cancer. it's the worst for babies. – dandavis Jan 26 '18 at 5:01
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The "joint compound" is some form of mastic, which may contain asbestos if it was manufactured prior to 1984. If it does it's a very low risk because the fibers won't become airborne unless you so something reckless like sanding or sawing it.

The "popcorn" is vermiculite, a mineral which expands and forms small voids when heated. A low-density rock that traps lots of air has obvious appeal as fire-proof insulation. Unfortunately, tons of the stuff was mined and processed from an asbestos containing deposit in Montana. Short of having a qualified geologist look at it under magnification there's no way to tell. It's a bit more nefarious than the mastic because shoveling it up will cause fibers to be airborne. Wetting it will greatly reduce the number.

Keep in mind that a professional asbestos remediation involves a decontamination shower and negative air pressure to prevent fibers travelling to other parts of the building, either on clothing or air currents. They should also be checking the air quality afterwards to make sure fibers are wafting around.

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That is vermiculite.

You can buy that stuff at Walmart in the garden department.

There is a small possibility that it contains asbestos.

It is possible that there was an asbestos vein in the ground where the vermiculite was mined.

  • I thought it looked like vermiculite also we used to mix with cement for a light weight concrete. – Ed Beal Jan 24 '18 at 14:21
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    There is a good chance it contains asbestos. Most of the vermiculite from that era came from an asbestos containing deposit in Libby, Montana. – Matthew Gauthier Jan 24 '18 at 17:04
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I would assume that it contains asbestos, and act accordingly:

1- Get a good mask

2- Get Contractor Bags

3- Bag the debris delicately lifting as little dust as you can

4- Seal the bags (tape them up)

5- Dispose of them (I'll let that one up to you)

These are suggestions. I am not liable in any circumstance (sorry had to add this).

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Before you throw the boiler away, I would recommend that you advertise that you are disposing of a coal boiler, (if the sections are not cracked and can hold water), and is there anyone interested in purchasing it. There are people every where that may want this boiler. You may be able to sell it or at least have them remove it for free. AS for any asbestos material, asbestos was outlawed around 1970 or so but old boilers were "FULL" of it I would proceed cautiously.

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