Asbestos, from the Stone Age to Today

Known to have been used in the Stone Age around 4,500B.C., the inhabitants of East Finland used the asbestos mineral we now know of as anthophyllite for strengthening pots, jugs and water carrying vessels.

Around 4,000B.C. this raw, fibrous and microscopic mineral was used extensively for the wicks of long burning candles.

In the Bronze Age, Egyptians manufactured cloths made of asbestos to wrap around the bodies of their pharaohs to ensure that their human bodies did not decompose. But, by this time it was well known that being in the vicinity of or using asbestos to make cloths and clothing carried serious health issues for the slaves working on these tasks.

The Greek philosopher Strabo (63B.C. – A.D.24 noted a “disease of the lungs” in slaves that had worked within the weaving of asbestos into cloths, and latterly the Roman historian Pliny the Elder A.D.23 – A.D.79 wrote of a “disease of the slaves” which resulted in slaves using goat and lamb stomach membranes as an early form of breathing respirator.

It wasn’t until around 300B.C. that the term “asbestos” started to come into existence, derived by the Romans from the word “asbestinon”, meaning unquenchable.

Jumping forward a bit, the first published death in the UK directly related to asbestos was in 1924.

Asbestos and the Film Industry

In the early 20’s American film companies were already using asbestos fibres in place of real snow for lots of snow scenes. The 1939 famous film ‘The Wizard of Oz’ (filmed in the heat of summer) extensively used white asbestos (chrysotile) for its snow scenes. The ‘White Christmas’ and ‘Holiday Inn’ films both starring Bing Crosby used white asbestos during the snow scenes. The ever-popular film “What a Wonderful Life” made in 1946 starring James Stewart had asbestos blowing machines on-set throughout.

In 1964 ‘Goldfinger’ the first blockbuster Bond film used asbestos. Anywhere snow was required in a movie, it was asbestos that came to the rescue.

Asbestos in the Building Trade

The UK heavily adopted asbestos in the early 1940’s throughout its building sector, encompassing a wide range of materials from loft insulation, waterproof roof coverings, drainage systems etc using sheets of boarding known as AIB’s along with asbestos piping, vents, cement mortar and many more items being invented almost daily and, incorporated for use in the home and workplace.

Asbestos was also prominent in a range of personal items such as washing machines, ovens, toasters, ironing boards, deep fat fryers, hair dryers and used as filters in filtered cigarettes, so if cancer didn’t get you then the asbestos might. There’s no end to the list of uses.

From 1906 onwards there has been a lot of concern surrounding the use of asbestos in the UK as well as legislation introduced trying to limit its use which has been updated almost on a yearly basis yet, despite over 55 countries around the world having banned the use of asbestos, it is still in massive demand today.

Asbestos Mines

In 2020 Russia, the biggest producer of mined asbestos sourced 790,000 metric tons of asbestos and exported it worldwide.

As adults we’ve all known that asbestos in any of its various forms is a serious health hazard but how many parents knew that Johnson & Johnsons Baby Powder contains asbestos?

A Reuters News investigation published in December 2018 revealed that Johnson & Johnson had known that asbestos was in its products, including its famous baby talcum powder products, since the 1970s.

Big business and big money never seem to have any boundaries, more in the link below.

JS Removals will provide a quick and competitive quote for removing all instances of asbestos from your home or business premises and provide you with an Environment Agency certificate as proof of safe and regulated disposal.

All asbestos waste is subject to Schedule 2 of The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 and most waste is subject to The Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations 2009.


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