The History Of Asbestos
Asbestos is found naturally on every continent. It was first mentioned in early Greek sources during 300 BC. The ancient Egyptians and Persians used asbestos to embalm their dead. It was also used during the Roman Empire to build structures and manufacture clothing and textiles. The ancient Greeks noticed and documented the detrimental affect of asbestos on slaves who who worked with it. Scientists have found clay pots dating back to 2500 BC which contained asbestos in order to make them fire resistant.
The popularity of asbestos increased dramatically during the Industrial Revolution. It was used in the railroad industry to insulate boilers, pipes and other components found in locomotives and grew popular due to its resistance to water, electricity and chemicals. The shipyard industry followed suit with heavy usage of asbestos during and after World War II in order to insulate pipes and boilers. Shipyard and railroad workers were exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos fibres because it needed to be cut and sanded for a perfect fit.
Asbestos was also widely used in the building industry in both residential and commercial properties. It was used in the flooring, heating pipes, wall insulation, shingles and ceilings. During the early 1900’s production of asbestos reached nearly 30,000 tons every year. Asbestos mining became industrialized and could be found in cement, electric wiring, automotive parts and thermal insulation for buildings. Many roads built in the U.S between 1930 and 1950 consisted of asphalt mixed with asbestos.
The link between asbestos and mesothelioma was discovered in the 1970’s. The EPA banned many asbestos products in 1989. Asbestos was banned in the EU in 2005 but so far it has not been banned in the U.S. Increased awareness has made many Americans more aware of the severity of asbestos exposure but unfortunately many older residences and buildings still have remnants of asbestos.
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The ICOH reports deaths attributed to asbestos exposure to be greatly underestimated globally. 39,274 people in the U.S and 222,321 worldwide died