Why Was Asbestos So Popular in Construction?

According to the EPA, more than 30 million tons of asbestos were used between 1900 and 1980 for construction purposes and manufacturing, but why was such a harmful substance used so widely and how can you get rid of it?

History

Almost as old as civilization itself, archaeologists have found that asbestos fibers have been used for wicks in lamps and candles as early as 4000 BCE, with other uses along history including mummy embalming, pottery, and textiles such as funeral shrouds, tablecloths, and napkins likely due to its fireproof quality. That being said, the ancient Greeks and Romans also documented the harmful effects on those who mined the materials, a warning that was largely dismissed as a disease of enslaved people who worked in the mines and the aristocracy didn’t concern themselves with harmful elements of the trade.

Asbestos manufacturing caught on in the late 1800s due to its multi-use potential and newly mechanized mining operations. Asbestos’ resistance to chemicals, heat, water, and electricity made it an ideal insulator for trains, turbines, boilers, ovens, electrical generators, and homes. Workers who handled asbestos, however, suffered from the health consequences of their jobs – yet the material continued to be used well into the 1900s.

Asbestos

With tripled production from 1900 to 1910, asbestos manufacturing could not be stopped, only slowed by World War 1 and the Great Depression due to decreased consumption, but with the needed used in products during World War 2, the growth was revived and asbestos became used in just about anything.

Consequences

With the popularity of asbestos manufacturing came the risk of mesothelioma. The previous death of workers in the mining operations now came into the homes of individuals with high rates of disease in World War 2 veterans and made individuals question the products they were using in the home. Towards the end of the 1900s, the public began to understand the connection between asbestos, asbestos dust, and asbestos fibre exposure to harmful and fatal lung diseases resulting in the push by unions for the ban of the material. Full or partial bans have been enforced in multiple countries and continents but the U.S had been excluded from that list. Only when the last U.S asbestos mine closed in 2002 did individuals pivot from manufacturing to removing asbestos in commercial and residential buildings.

As it turns out, any removal of asbestos in residential and commercial properties require a professional due to the harmful effects of asbestos dust. Many homes and public structures can contain asbestos in cement, roof shingles, pipes, tiles and flooring, paint, and insulation which requires a dedicated expert for their proper removal. Don’t risk your health with a DIY attempt – call the experts at National Flooring Removal for an evaluation if you suspect your home may have asbestos flooring, insulation, and more.