History of Asbestos: Then and Now

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Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous material that has been linked to cancers such as mesothelioma. Although asbestos exposure is considered dangerous, it is not completely banned in the US and other countries because it is naturally occurring and does serve a valuable purpose thanks to its fire-resistance and durability.

History of Asbestos

Asbestos has been around for millions of years, but its name derives from the Greeks, which means “inextinguishable”. The Greeks recognized the ability of asbestos to resist fire, and the first use of asbestos was by the Greeks around 300 B.C., although it may have been used by other cultures long before.

In Persia, the substance was imported and used to wrap the dead, while the Egyptians used it to embalm their dead pharos. By the time of the Holy Roman Empire, asbestos was widely used in textiles, women’s clothing, and building materials. Over the centuries, the use of asbestos continued to flourish even though many arguably became ill with mesothelioma. No one yet had made the connection between the cancer and asbestos.

By the late 19th Century, asbestos was in such demand that many entrepreneurs invested in the mining of the substance, which resulted in many wealthy people. This was because the Industrial Revolution created many opportunities for the use of asbestos, starting with the railroad industry, as they used it to insulate much of their locomotives.

Shipyards soon followed as asbestos was used in many different areas of vessels for its fireproofing abilities. This translated into construction where many commercial buildings, facilities, and even private residences were lined with asbestos from the roof, exterior siding, and even the flooring.

Dangers of Asbestos

The first known dangers of asbestos exposure were diagnosed in 1924, but that did little to stop the spread of the material, which reached its peak during World War II. Although dwindling, it was not until the 1970s that the EPA began to issue warnings and enact regulations that started to curb the use of asbestos. By the end of the 1970s, asbestos was banned for use in most areas, including construction.

However, the sheer volume of asbestos used during most of the 20th Century means that many buildings, homes, facilities, and structures still contain asbestos. Even many appliances from the time may contain asbestos that protects the wiring and the transfer of heat.

Seemingly every day, asbestos is being discovered in older properties and goods where it may have sat for decades. For millions of people, this represents a real danger of asbestos exposure that might go unchecked. That is why the search for asbestos on properties continues to this day.

How Brickley Environmental Can Help

If you suspect that asbestos might be present in your home, office, or facility, please call the experts at Brickley Environmental. We offer complete services in the identification and removal of asbestos from your property.

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