Paper on Cold Air Return ducts??

I have a house that was built in 1909, and have been cleaning up the unfinished basement/utility room. The cold air return ducts have a paper covering on them. The paper is very stained and brittle, and looks very old, but I have no way of knowing when it was put on the ducts, although it was certainly put on after the ducts were installed (rather than the duct material itself having some sort of covering on it).
Does anyone know why this might have been done? The only theories we've come up with so far are either just for esthetic purposes, or possibly for some sound deadening (although I can't imagine how much good it would have done).
It's clearly not any sort of insulation, it's just very thin paper - like someone decided to wall-paper the ducts.
Curious minds want to know...
A. Brown take out the garbage to email
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Very often, this is a thin asbestos fabric. Really common in my area (Milwaukee) on older houses. Sorry for the bad news...
JK
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This is very likely an asbestos covering and should not be disturbed. You may even want to have the ducts replaced, I would. The costs to have it removed are well worth it, as it is not worth the health risks having it in your house create. The costs involved in removing it are cheaper now as more companies are competing for the work. If removal can't be done, in some areas you are allowed to seal it and mark as an asbestos product. Check your local area for your options. I was certified to remove it many years ago, now I just let the customer know what it is and who to call to remove it.
Joseph

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A. Brown
It may be that someone wanted to shut those registers tight. In that case it would just be paper and you could remove it safetly. I see people covering grilles they don't want to use with paper fairly often.
Stretch
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Old RockWrap... Asbestoes in nature normally, and if thats the case, not a fun thing to remove.
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Sealing makes sense. Removal is not needed as once the material is sealed, there is no health risk. It is only the inhalation of fibers when it is broken up, or cut, or otherwise disturbed that presents a risk. Touching the stuff will cause no harm at all.
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stretch wrote:

Question to the Op
is the "paper" wrapped around the entire return duct or is it just covering the return registers, i.e. the grills?
What about the supply ducts? Usually it is the supply ducts that are insulated.
Mark
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wrote in message

Thanks for all the replies.
There's wrapping on the heating pipes that I'm pretty is asbestos (but in good condition), so it certainly wouldn't surprise me to hear that this other stuff may contain asbestos also - it just never occurred to me because of the thinness. It's certainly no thicker than a piece of typing paper.(Gee... I guess I should call that "inkjet paper").
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It isn't on the registers at all - it's the ducts going from the registers to the furnace. Popular opinion seems to be that it's asbestos insulation.
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I would, before reaching any conclusions, clip off a small piece and try burning it. If it burns, it sure isn't asbestos. According to the responses you have received, it probably is asbestos but you sure wouldn't want to pay for removal if it isn't. --- SJF
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