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The History of Asbestos

Asbestos | Central Compliance UK

Asbestos is a naturally occurring, heat and fire resistant material and takes its name from a Greek term, meaning ‘inextinguishable’. For centuries, Ancient civilisations marvelled at the majestic qualities of the material and its many uses. Greeks would often weave the material into cloth, whilst the Romans used it in cremation cloths, lamp wicks and even table cloths. After finishing their meals, many Romans were even known to throw their asbestos tablecloths into their fires and it would reappear spotless and unmarked!

However, today Asbestos is far from being seen as the miracle material it once was and has since been proven by the medical world to cause cancer. Many people who came in to contact with the material developed threatening illnesses, like asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. This is because once asbestos is broken up and disturbed it can become airborne, and its minuscule fibres are easily inhaled in to the lungs. Once inhaled, these fibres can severely aggravate organ tissue and can lead to a number of related diseases which often prove fatal.

The dangers of asbestos have long been documented and even the Roman philosopher, Pliny the Elder, documented that slaves mining asbestos had experienced severe lung illnesses which lead to their death.

As the centuries rolled by, and more people developed illnesses or died, asbestos use still continued. During the height of the Industrial Revolution, asbestos was in high demand and used in many factories all over America and Europe. Even oil and chemical plants, railroad factories, and shipyards were seeing the benefits of asbestos. The material was used to coat piping and cisterns in steam trains, tanks and cookers in processing plants, and throughout the materials of most ships. The large scale industrial use meant many workers were being exposed every day and experiencing the familiar symptoms associated with remove toxic asbestos related illnesses.

During the twentieth century, asbestos was being used all over the globe. In Europe, asbestos was hugely popular within the construction industry and was used in cement, plaster and floor tiles. Across the pond in America, asbestos was also being used in the pedals of automobiles whilst also insulating many skyscrapers as a safety feature to allow time to egress the building in the event of a fire.

However, during this time it became harder to ignore the high number of reported health problems associated with exposure to asbestos. Many who had retired from the navy, including shipyard & construction workers, were at the highest risk of developing asbestosis poisoning.

This century saw many business proprietors using asbestos in their buildings, knowing full well the dangers and toxicity associated with the material. In the end, there were just too many reports of workers becoming ill for the government to ignore. Eventually the US government was forced to change rulings on the usage of asbestos. Towards the end of the 1970s and early 1980s ruling regulating the use of asbestos was finally executed. It wasn’t until 1999 that the UK banned all use of asbestos.

Today, many nations still continue mining for asbestos and then distribute it to other countries throughout the world. Nonetheless, over 40 nations have legally forbidden asbestos use, production and distribution, identifying its harmful and deadly properties. Thankfully, there is more awareness of the dangers of asbestos remove poisoning add related diseases, with more health organisations, governments and industries campaigning against its use.

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