Today we associate asbestos with hazardous materials, cancer, and other negative things, but this wasn’t always the case. Anyone who owns a building built or remodeled before the 1980s or 1990s can easily find themselves with asbestos in many places throughout their home or business. Today we’re going to look at how this came to be and what was the tipping point for asbestos to turn from a wonder material into a hazardous construction material.
What is Asbestos?
The first thing to understand why asbestos saw widespread use is to understand its origins and properties. Asbestos is actually a naturally-occurring material, a long crystal silicate that has been mined since the dawn of shovels and picks. However, it wasn’t until the turn of the last century when it started to see use because of its desirable properties of sound absorption and resistance to electricity, heat, and fire. By the 1920s and 1930s, it saw regular use in products and home construction.
The Heyday of Asbestos Use
Asbestos was an affordable material with some very useful properties, and while the health conditions it caused started to crop up, much of it was either thought unrelated or suppressed by manufacturers or miners for years. The most common uses in construction were in the following areas:
- Insulation: Asbestos was both used as a fire-proof and electrical insulation, including in wiring, heating, and building insulation.
- Cement: Asbestos was mixed with cement to help the cement from cracking as it dried. Pipes and even roofs were made of this asbestos cement.
- Textiles: Blankets and mats were also made using asbestos, woven into the materials to proof them against fire.
The Discovery of Asbestos Health Effects
It was only in the 1980s and 90s when the court cases and worldwide legislature pushed the health effects of asbestos into the open. In many countries, full or partial bans were passed on many goods and construction made of asbestos. The US saw class after class-action lawsuit about the effects of asbestos, and today while not completely banned in the US, it is greatly restricted, especially due to the legal precedents of so many cases.
If you are concerned about the possibility or presence of asbestos in your home or business, Fiber Control, Inc. can help. We are licensed and insured asbestos remediation, containment, and removal specialists for Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Contact us today to get started.