Asbestos: A Rocky History

When you hear the word asbestos, you probably think of things like lung cancer and mesothelioma. Asbestos has long been used in construction for things like siding, ceiling tiles, and pipe insulation. It is still used today in most car brake pads. But when asbestos is "disrupted" and the tiny dust particles are released, it can be a very dangerous and even deadly substance. Where did this material come from, and what is its role today?

Asbestos Beginnings

Asbestos can be found on almost every continent in the world. It is a fibrous material that was actually once used by the Egyptians to wrap pharaohs in before burial. Because it produces long fibers, it was also used as candle wicks. This material continued to be used into the Middle Ages. King Charlemagne of France once asked that a tablecloth be made of asbestos since it burned slowly, and would less likely be destroyed in the event of a fire. Into the 1700's, asbestos was still utilized to make everything from carrying bags to paper.

Industrial Use

At the dawn of the industrial revolution, people began to mine for asbestos for use in construction applications. Because it is a great insulator and very resistant to water, chemicals, and electricity, it was utilized for the insulation of steam engines, boilers, and generators that helped to power the factories of the time. Miners all over the world continued to look for asbestos since it was such a hot commodity. There were mines in Africa, Russia, Canada, Australia. In 1858, Asbestos was used as a roofing material for homes in New York. It was first used in brake lining for horse carriages in England in the late 1800's.

Asbestos Today

Soon, physicians began to realize that the dust and small fibers produced from disturbed asbestos was causing a myriad of health issues. People who worked in either the mines or production facilities that used asbestos began to fall ill of various lung diseases. Despite these facts, it continued to be used in manufacturing and building well into the 1900's. Through the 1950's, asbestos was used in anything from roadways and cement to rubber gaskets and flooring. Today there are many bans put in place for asbestos, and it is no longer used in construction. If asbestos is discovered, professionals from places like Hazmat Solutions Asbestos are usually required to come and remove it due to the many health hazards it poses to people.