What Is Asbestos?

What Is Asbestos?

in Overall Health by
What Is Asbestos?
By: Aaron SuggsCC BY 2.0

You want to ensure that you are as safe as you can be. Avoiding certain threatening elements is essential to optimal health. Some of the greatest hazards to our health are naturally occurring, and asbestos is no exception.

What Is It?

The fibers of asbestos are so small; they cannot be seen without some sort of magnification. They are long and thin. It is hard to tell an asbestos fiber apart from other similar mineral fibers. It is important to get somebody who can identify it to check if there is any concern of the mineral anywhere in your home. Despite the now known obvious health risks, asbestos historically had been seen as an essential product.

Asbestos is categorized into six naturally occurring silicate minerals. They have been found to be useful in many different ways. Because they are heat resistant, they can be woven into fabrics and used as a fire resistant product.

As far back as 4,500 years ago, people have been using asbestos. Back then the wealthy would use fire to clean clothes woven with asbestos. The fire would not damage the material, but would simply sterilize it. Charlemagne is thought to have been the first Roman Emperor to use a tablecloth woven with asbestos.

In 1858 the U.S. began producing its own products lined with the mineral. The industrial revolution mandated the increased need for the product. By the mid 1900s, it hit its peak in the United States. Here are some of the most popular uses of asbestos at this time:

  • Fire-resistant materials
  • Concrete
  • Bricks
  • Fireplace cement
  • Heat, fire, and acid resistant gaskets
  • Pipe insulation
  • Ceiling insulation

Even after its health risks were identified, it wasn’t until the 1990s that there was a sharp drop in production worldwide. As the health effects began to be realized, the popularity decreased.

The Dangers

As early as the 1900s, there were large numbers of early deaths in areas close to asbestos mines. Most of these deaths were directly related to lung problems. The UK and the U.S. both began regulating ventilation and classified asbestosis as a work-related disease.

All of the six types of asbestos have been proven to cause serious heath problems, although some are worse than others. The lungs are often the part of the body hit the worst. Those who worked in the mines were the ones who first seemed to show the symptoms of asbestosis, but those living anywhere near a mine were not spared.

The most common health effect from this exposure was mesotheliomas, which is cancer of the mesothelioma, the protective cell lining that works to protect and cover many of the essential internal organs. This is a rare type of cancer, but 70 to 80 percent of patients with it were directly exposed to asbestos.

If you have any question of the presence asbestos in your home, make sure to have somebody who knows what they are doing check it out. This is one mineral you don’t want to mess with. You get a radon test, so why not get a test for asbestos? The health effects are similar. If detected early on, both can be removed before they have a chance to cause harm.

By Cassie Costner

Cassie writes on naturally occurring products that can have detrimental effects. She focuses on asbestos removal and radon detection. If you have any concern of either of these in your home, she advises you to get a test done as soon as possible. Cassie currently writes for CRCS Disaster Kleenup in Oshawa, Ontario.