A Brief History
Since the late 1800s, asbestos has been utilized in countless ways, across various industries, occupations, and applications. Considering its amazing insulative and malleable properties, once processed, asbestos has the unique ability to resist extreme heat and open flames, making it the revolutionary building material of the early 1900s, reaching its peak in use in 1973.
Asbestos containing products used in residential, public and commercial buildings were often designed as sprays or wet-applied wraps used to protect valuable structural components such as foundations, plumbing, electrical, and HVAC ducts from fire. In an attempt to utilize its fire retardant properties, asbestos was incorporated in many building materials of the time, such as:
-Asphalt and cement shingles
-Roofing felts and coatings
-Vinyl flooring tiles
-Masonry products including cement boards and flat sheets
Although official knowledge of asbestos related health concerns are recorded dating back to the 1920s, studies show that the United States consumed and imported over 800,000 tons of asbestos in 1973 and at one point, asbestos could be found in over 3,000 consumer products including theater curtains, fake snow, crayons, talc and more. In 1989, the EPA issued the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) banning most asbestos-containing products. However, a few years later the rule was vacated and remanded by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1991, overturning most of the original ban.
Health Hazards Due to Asbestos Exposure
Each asbestos fiber has millions of microscopic fibrils that can easily become airborne resulting from disturbance or abrasion. Once airborne, the extremely fine and abrasive silicate dust becomes carcinogenic when inhaled.
Once inhaled or ingested, the fibers can become lodged into the lining of the abdomen, lungs or heart, even testes to develop asbestosis, pneumothorax, pleural effusion, pleural plaque, asbestos warts, lung cancer and even an aggressive cancer known as mesothelioma. Unlike most cancer, mesothelioma is 99% preventable by avoiding exposure to asbestos and due to its latency period, it can take anywhere between 10-50 years to experience health concerns or symptoms.
Currently, only 30% of the world has entirely banned the use, production, mining or importation of asbestos, meaning the majority of the global population is still at risk of being exposed to this toxic carcinogen of which there is no safe level of exposure. Still today, asbestos is not banned in the United States and some products being made and sold in the U.S. are legally able to contain up to 1% of asbestos including:
-Vehicle parts including parts of airplanes, helicopters, ships, cars and trucks
-Insulation & construction materials
If you believe you have been exposed to asbestos, consult with your doctor or healthcare provider.
To learn more about asbestos or asbestos related disease, visit www.maacenter.org/blog/.