I love to collect T era spark plugs. Many then that i clean up still have original copper gaskets and insulating/sealing layer. While cleaning one up recently I was using the wire wheel to clean off a stuck on layer of this insulating compound when it hit me......this probably has asbestos in it. And I am flinging it into the air in front of my face. Not a good thing to inhale. Anyone know for sure or have any thoughts?
Wear a mask....do it in a hood or under saran wrap.
Ask your doctor.
What it is...a speck of asbestos or anything gets in your lungs...your system tries to cough it to expel it...99.999% of the time it gets out with no worries.
When that doesn't work, it gets covered in mucus and your system tries to cough it up and usually works.
But when it gets stuck down in an air stack below your ability to expel, your body tries to grow a firm sack around it, encapsulating the particle. Then if the inside senses a 'cancer causing substance' it hyper-drives the jelly bean covering that then go crazy and produce malignant cells that trigger the jelly bean cover to make more cover...and then it becomes unstoppable as all the new cells are the malignant ones.
So since I'm not a doctor, and usually have a strong opinion about everything...why or how should I even offer comment?
Every 18 months, they put me in a body frame so I look like the Karate kid standing on the fence in the movie but I get strapped so can't move or flinch...they wheel it into a special CT machine...they line up the miniature CNC harpoon gun...they shoot a CT and align the harpoon gun a little better to shoot through a space between my ribs, and still hit the center of a jelly bean sac I carry in my lower left lung that they pick up on the CT shot with my body frame now part of the X-Y-Z axis!
They give me about 500 mg of Darvon or the like a few minutes before the ready-aim-fire because they want me to stay awake! So when I hear the trigger go off (its an air cannon) and see the harpoon hanging I don't panic my thoughts are just 'wow...........way cool!' lol
The hollow harpoon is withdrawn and sent out for testing...I then go to a regular X-ray which 'freezes' the size of my left lung as a picture during a deep CPAP mask inhale....and then I get to go have unlimited cookies and milk and legally harmlessly flirt with the nurses for the first hour or so due to the drugs, watch Dr. Phil or Ellen for 5 hours and come back for a 2nd X-ray to prove my lung capacity has not diminished due to a leak! They then give me the car keys back ha-ha...
Always benign, but because it sometimes grows at 2mm per 18 months...they have to keep doing the tests just to make sure it is staying benign.
Chances are you are fine Erich and will be fine...but in the future think about what I said...mine just may be normal dust or even human shedding and not the dreaded 'A' word at all...but once way back when while installing hard stainless cover over bare asbestos wrap on a process machine I did sneeze...so short of fully cracking my ribs and going after the jelly bean (which 'they' claim is not worth the surgical risks based on a dozen years or so of benign testing)...I have to live with the harpoon gun thingy. It's not bad, sort of a day at the spa mentally. LOL
The doomsday lawyers go after the shipyard workers and the fleet navy enginemen and motor repairmen as there was so much Asbestos dust in the air in that sort of environment...that each and every breath took in a particle at least...and if the odds of 'bad' are one in a billion or so...they just tanked the odds with every breath they took!
So, you've had the thought, the odds are way, way, way in your favor that nothing was at risk...but in the future eliminate those odds...wear a mask...do the cleaning and polishing in a gallon sized zip-lock or wet it before you chip it off.
I can't say I know for sure, but I think you're right. Many if not most such products from the T era contain asbestos. I'd be careful with it. Breathing protection, something to contain the friable dust, and keeping it wet will all help.
Of course the best thing is to not wire brush it at all. Asbestos is not a chemical poison, it damages lungs by repeatedly puncturing them. So, just having these old spark plugs won't hurt you. It's when you make dust with it that's dangerous to you and anyone nearby.
It is interesting to note that the State of Idaho is made of a compound known to cause cancer in Kalifornia, because of that, OSHA requires businesses that have contact with the ground to have MSDSs on file to cover the makeup of the soil.
I would not worry about it, but I wouldn't do it again.
In the late fifties in St. Paul we used to pull the 4 brake drums off each of two cars when we had two in for brakes at the same time and blow the black ass bestos dust off them all at the same time so there would be so much dust in there we couldn't see each other.
I'm still alive and have had no problems.
We didn't know at that time the harm it could do.
Besides, it take several years for the trouble to show up.
Erich: I have worked around asbestos most of my career. It may still get me. But I have learned that asbestos is only harmful to you if it is stirred up as a fine dust, and you breathe it. So keep it wet, use a mask, or tent cover as you grind on it. But it still boils down to how much you breathe, how fine the dust, and how long you have left to live. (its a odds type of thing), A young person has longer to live and a longer chance to get asbestosis. Us old farts have less time here on Gods pretty Earth, so less time for it to kill us. Now in my case I was working in the ship yards, chemical plants, refinery and steel mills from the age of 18. So I am probably doomed and a ticking time bomb. I have literally tore foot thick layers of old burnt up asbestos insulation from old boilers built in the 30s 40s and 50s era. I have been literally up to my waist in it for days at a time working long shifts and hours. The dust was so thick that you could hardly see. We only wore the cheap single string dust masks back then. They are only good for large particles and are useless against asbestos. We took air hoses to "blow down" the work area and then went and ate lunch sitting on the "new" asbestos that we were going to put back on the boiler. I have been tested three times for asbestosis. I do not show a sign of it. My dad (who never even wore the cheap dust masks) did not show signs of it either. He worked most of his working life as a Boilermaker. It could be genetics, luck, the grace of God, or ???? that has kept us from getting asbestosis. So with all that said, I would still recommend to be careful and wear a good quality respirator,(no dust masks) and you will probably be OK. But something is going to kill all of us sooner or later. We just hope it is later ..
Yeah, I know. Asbestos is one of the deadliest naturally occurring substances on Earth (along with things like arsenic, and snake venom). Bottom line up front. An ounce of prevention is not a bad thing.
I grew up in San Jose Califunny. A couple miles South of down town, is a small hill in the middle of the valley (a very windy valley by the way). The old-timers and farmers way back KNEW that that hill was no good for farming at all in part because it is a natural asbestos hill. The entire area has been developed into suburbs for miles in all directions. Whenever the wind blows? Whatever area is down wind of the hill is being hit with microscopic asbestos fibers for a couple miles. I would bet not one person in a hundred living there now has ever been told about it.
Just a few years ago, in relation to work here in Grass Valley, I was required to attend an "Asbestos Awareness Seminar" (I had been through a few of them before and also passed the state's contractors license test for it, so I probably could have taught the dumb thing). The one thing I did find interesting and did not actually know before, was how many natural asbestos sources are within a few miles of my house (one just about a mile down highway 49 from my street).
The point is, if asbestos were as dangerous as the doomsayers and lawyers claimed? Half the people in the world would be dying from it right now.
But the fact is, it is a deadly substance, and once exposed? It is the proverbial crap shoot whether it may show up and kill you years later or not. So, as I said, an ounce of prevention is not a bad thing. And those "Asbestos Awareness Seminars"? I actually think they are a good idea. But I wouldn't go nuts worrying about it either.
Do drive carefully, and enjoy, W2
This may interest you since it's not far from where you live now.
In the early 1990's I went to work as Director of Facilities in Calaveras Unified School District. At Calaveras High School in San Andreas the district had already started a process with the state to "contain" the naturally occurring asbestos on campus. The state took air samples and had determined, based on the results of those samples, that they needed to do something to reduce the on-campus airborne asbestos.
We spent $300,000 of the states money doing things like better controlling storm water runoff, paving student walk paths, installing landscaping, retaining shear drops, etc. all intended to reduce silting and the resulting asbestos that dries out and then gets stirred up by the wind. It constituted a great campus beautification project.
Unfortunately, once it was done, I don't think it made any difference in the air sample readings at all. There's naturally occurring asbestos all over that area. What they were getting in the readings was material from upwind of the campus. We could have paved the entire campus with concrete 6" think and it would have made no significant difference.
P.S. I grew up in San Jose too!
There's a big difference between the momentary thing you did and spending an entire career in a shipyard or installing furnaces. _Get some peace of mind from your family doctor and then forget about it.
Eric, I agree with Bob. As a retired Facilities Director at a local school district, I was also certified in asbestos abatement, testing and remediation. Trust me, what little you may (and most likely not) breathe in isn't going to do diddly squat to you. Especially if you're "mature"...(notice I didn't say older!)...it takes a hefty amount of asbestos in the lungs a good 30 years to show up as a pulmonary compromise. When I was in my early teens before anything came about this issue, I used to be white from head to toe removing loose asbestos insulation from boilers and pipes, and 20 years later as part of my certification, I was required to have a pulmonary screening annually and always passed with flying colors. Don't lose any sleep over it.
How many of us have stripped old black paint off a chassis with a wire wheel? Wonder what kind of good stuff is in there?
We have similar backgrounds Tim. I too was Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) certified. What I found very interesting in my training was learning:
1. If you have prolonged exposure to asbestos there is a chance you will develop lung cancer (or any one of a number of other lung problems).
2. If you smoke tobacco there's a chance you'll develop lung cancer.
3. If you smoke and have prolonged exposure to asbestos lung cancer becomes nearly a statistical certainty.
I quit smoking after learning this (28 years ago).
I'm not to worried about it. Mostly it was one of those "Ah-Ha" moments. I saw a fair amount of guys come into the hospital with asbestosis after having worked in the shipyards. One guy talked about all the asbestos matting they used all day long in tight quarters. Then they took smoke and lunch breaks in the shed that had piles of this matting in it and often a sorta pillow fight would break out with guys hitting eachother over the head with this stuff till it looked like a snow storm. I don't think I had enough exposure to worry about but I wont do it that way again.
Dan B, I can't tell you how many times i've cleaned up old parts on a wire wheel then spent several days blowing crud out of my nostrils. I'm sure the asbestos isn't my biggest hazard. Not to mention all the solvents, etc, that i've soaked my hands in over the years.
I'm sure we all have done this stuff.
It depends on how much asbestos you are exposed to and also your genes. I used to come in contact with it on a very limited basis when I was in my teens and 20's and now am 79. I have not yet come down with lung cancer. A place where I worked when in my teens, had a brake shop. I personally did not work in the brake department, but the brake man used to pull off the brake drums and blow out the dust with compressed air. No respirator or face mask. He also ground the new brake shoes to match the arc of the drums and blew away the dust. He also smoked. A few years ago I went back there and asked how "Harry" was doing. They said he was in his 80's and selling Real Estate. He also had no problems. However, there are some people who will get cancer.
I would not say one should do as Harry did. These days we know better, however, the small amount you would be exposed to when working with spark plugs, would not likely be a problem.