History of Asbestos: A Timeline of its Deadly Effects


Archaeological records show that humans began using asbestos 10,000 years ago. As far as archaeologists can tell, the material’s fibers were first used to strengthen clay cooking pots in 8,000 B.C in Scandinavia. This most likely happened after people discovered asbestos made their pots heat-resistant. Its heat-resistant properties are the reason asbestos use was popular for so long.

Across Cultures

The Egyptians used asbestos in their burial mounds, and the Romans used asbestos fibers in their tablecloths. No one knew of its dangerous effects at the time, but Julius Caesar did observe that miners in the asbestos mines lived a shorter life.

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Commercialization of Asbestos

Asbestos manufacturing took root in the late 1800s. When the Industrial Revolution kicked off, asbestos commercialization saw strong and steady growth in use up until the 1970s. Asbestos became so popular due to its widespread application, as the material could be used for many things.

The properties that made this material stand out include its heat resistance, chemical resistance, water resistance, and electrical resistance. That’s why it was used in the construction of ovens, boilers, steam engines, turbines, and electrical generators.

Asbestos was also used on ships, where it protected sailors because of its fire-resistant properties. On a ship, fire poses one of the most severe dangers. The best way of dealing with fires on a ship comes from preventing them to begin with. Asbestos helped to do this.

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Asbestos Mining

Asbestos mining took place worldwide. They had crocidolite asbestos mining in Free State, Africa. In Quebec, Canada, in 1876, the miners mined chrysotile asbestos. In the 1870s, Germany, Italy, England, Australia, Zimbabwe, and Finland all mined asbestos. At that time, the market for asbestos was huge. This was partly due to its widespread availability, as it was one of the most accessible natural resources.

Early 1900s

The early 1900s rolled around, and the worldwide asbestos production market grew to 30,000 tons used on an annual basis. Women and children even participated in the manufacturing of asbestos as they prepared and spun the raw fibers while the men toiled in the mines.

The Johns Manville company ranked as the largest manufacturing enterprise of asbestos in the United States. They were eventually buried in lawsuits and bankrupted.

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The 1960s and 1970s

During the 1960s and 1970s, the last time that we saw widespread asbestos use, mining spiked within the United States. Widespread use stopped in the 1970s after they linked mesothelioma and lung cancer with asbestos exposure. This led to them stopping with the use of asbestos.

It is important to note that this only led to a partial ban. Even today, you still have some companies that have made use of asbestos. Ford brakes, for example, still uses asbestos fibers, and this could pose a hazard to mechanics.

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The Cover-Up

Unfortunately, asbestos manufacturing companies knew about the dangers of asbestos, but because they made so much money off it, they placed money over human lives. This cover-up continued for decades as companies tried their best to bury and discredit the truth. To this day, the United States never fully banned the use of asbestos.

If you or someone you love developed lung cancer or mesothelioma because of asbestos exposure, you should speak with a lawyer as soon as possible. Specialized lawyers can help mesothelioma victims receive substantial compensation. People have walked away with millions of dollars in damages because of asbestos exposure that caused mesothelioma.

Asbestos is so dangerous that 17 countries have banned the use of it altogether. People used asbestos throughout the 20th century because most didn’t know about the dangers. Once asbestos fibers enter your lungs, you can’t get them out, and the potential to develop lung cancer exists even decades later.


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