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Lesson 2

Asbestos Throughout History

Asbestos was first used at least 4,500 years ago and has been used consistently throughout history thanks to its numerous properties.

It is still mined and used in many countries across the world, such as India, Russia and China.

  • First used over 4,500 years ago – it has been found in pots made by people living in Finland at the time
  • The ancient Greeks used it to create “Eternal Flames” (4th Century BC)
  • Rich Persians would fascinate guests by cleaning cloths containing asbestos by throwing them into a fire! (5th Century)
  • First samples displayed in London (1862)
  • During industrialisation asbestos was widely used when building factories, shops and houses (late 19th Century)
  • Dangers began to be understood after widespread use in the UK (early 20th Century)
  • First diagnosis of asbestosis, an illness caused by asbestos (1924)
  • Imports of asbestos minerals reached nearly 170,000 tonnes (1960)
  • One type of asbestos (Crocidolite/Blue Asbestos) banned (1972)
  • Complete ban on import and use of asbestos in the UK (1999)