Asbestos is the generic name for six naturally-occurring minerals found within the earth. Strong, flexible, and heat resistant, these different types of asbestos have been used throughout history within products of many kinds. In fact, the first uses of asbestos minerals can be traced back to ancient times, within clothing, pottery, and log homes.
Asbestos seemed like a "miracle mineral" throughout history, because it is naturally flame retardant and heat insulating - the word asbestos literally means "inextinguishable" or "indestructible." It is no wonder multiple countries around the world began using it over time.
While the use of asbestos can be traced back thousands of years across several continents, it was not until 1828 that the first U.S. patent for asbestos was issued. It was around this time that industry and construction were on the rise in the country, and asbestos was seen, yet again, as the "miracle mineral" to get the job done. Not only was the substance affordable and naturally in abundance, many builders believed that asbestos roofing, flooring, and insulation were the safest bet for American citizens.
Asbestos was mined, manufactured, and worked into thousands of building materials and products all over the country, but it was not long before those who worked around asbestos began seeing serious side effects.
Today, asbestos exposure is the known cause of asbestosis, mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other deadly diseases. Many people who handled asbestos in the past were unaware of its dangers because of the long latency period between exposure and diagnosis. It can take anywhere from ten to fifty years for someone to be diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease.
While workers did not know of the dangers, many asbestos companies were fully aware and face the consequences today, in court. Have you been exposed to asbestos? In efforts to spread asbestos awareness, please share your story with us in a comment below!