Asbestos – From 'Miracle Mineral' to 'Health Hazard'

Asbestos in the Ancient Greek civilisation translates to 'inextinguishable'. Even through the fibre was already recognised by the Ancient Greeks as harmful to the lungs, due to it's practical application it became widely used for a range of purposes.

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Asbestos – From ‘Miracle Mineral’ to ‘Health Hazard’

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Asbestos in the Ancient Greek civilisation translates to ‘inextinguishable’. Even through the fibre was already recognised by the Ancient Greeks as harmful to the lungs, due to it’s practical application it became widely used for a range of purposes. These ranged from fibres woven into slaves garments, cremation shrouds made only for the royalty and society’s most respectable to simple everyday household items such as napkins and wicks for oil lamps.

Even in ancient times, the Greeks recognized that asbestos was dangerous; slaves who worked with the material experienced damage to their lungs. Over the years, asbestos was made into cloths that wowed the guests of royal Persian and Chinese households.

Beginning with the industrial revolution in the mid-nineteenth century, asbestos became a popular source of insulation due to its fire retardant properties. In 1879, the first asbestos mine opened up in the Appalachian region of Quebec. Well into the twentieth century, asbestos was used as a fire-retardant coating in a wide variety of places, from inside drywall to roofing and lawn furniture.

Medical practitioners of the early twentieth century began to consider the safety implications that surrounded this commonly used substance. It wasn’t until 1906 that the first asbestos related death was recorded. Yet, due to corporate business interests, the governments of the world were very slow to stop the production of asbestos. Even thought for decades the American government was aware of the health risks associated with the use of asbestos, it wasn’t until the late 1970s that this information came to the public’s attention.

What Exactly Is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a silicate mineral that occurs naturally and consists of long, stringy crystal fibres. Inhaling these toxic fibres causes serious lung damage, leading to mesothelioma (a form of lung cancer nearly always produced from asbestos exposure), other forms of lung cancer, and asbestosis, a chronic inflammatory condition of the lungs.

Asbestos fibres are much thinner than the human hair. These fibres are highly dangerous as they can easily become airborne and find their way into the eyes, skin and lungs. Without a doubt, extended exposure to this substance leads to serious health risks.

Asbestos in Australia

In Australia during the post-war period of 1945 to 1980, asbestos was used heavily in construction, shipyards, and power stations. It was also mined in Australia and exported around the world. Although the dangers of the material were already known, it took until the mid-1970s for the use of asbestos to slow down. Today, people exposed to asbestos in Australia thirty or forty years previously are suing mining companies and other industries for asbestos-related illnesses.

Asbestos Removal in Brisbane

Asbestos removal in Brisbane is big business: several asbestos companies offering Brisbane Asbestos Removal exist to remove asbestos from homes, buildings, and especially asbestos removal from roofs, where asbestos in home construction was concentrated. Roof replacement in Brisbane should be only ever handled by a licensed, fully certified company. Consider that asbestos removal and Brisbane roofing replacement due to asbestos can put families at risk if they are not properly handled, so finding an asbestos removal Brisbane company that is qualified to do this job is of prime importance. Likewise, when it comes to roof replacement, Brisbane companies chosen for the job should be thoroughly investigated before hiring them.

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The review "Asbestos – From 'Miracle Mineral' to 'Health Hazard'" was last updated on 24/06/2009.

  • Bob Black

    It’s amazing I heard that they still use asbestos for ceiling insulation in canberra?