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Asbestos: Why Do We No Longer Use It?

Asbestos: Why Do We No Longer Use It?


Asbestos is one of those naturally-occurring substances that has been documented to have been used even as far back as 4,000 BC. Back then, it was used for the wicks of candles and lamps. A thousand years later, Egyptians used it in the cloths they used to wrap around the embalmed bodies of pharaohs for mummification. In several European countries, earthenware and shrouds have been dug up which were tested for asbestos. Its use even back in ancient times can be attributed to its fire-resistant and insulating properties – properties which made it a popular component in a lot of home and building materials from the start of the age of Industrialization up to the late 1980s.


While not completely banned from use, asbestos has been obviously excluded from materials that would otherwise have listed it as part of its components, such as vinyl flooring and the backings of wallpaper. For all its helpful uses that have been acknowledged since at least 4000 BC, why then have we stopped using it?


1. It has been linked to the development of certain cancers and respiratory diseases.

Studies have shown that asbestos causes several health problems to the people repeatedly exposed to them. These include those who worked in asbestos-mining companies, or those who work in hazardous waste cleanup. Once asbestos is inhaled, it goes into the lungs, where it lodges onto, and where it can stay undetected for years before it starts to cause problems leading to the development of diseases like lung cancer and asbestosis. The problem here is that the symptoms usually start manifesting years after the initial exposure, which could lead to a fatal conclusion.


2. It can be a nightmare to contain.

Asbestos fibers are so small that when they are released into the air, they can stay airborne for a long time. Which puts people and animals passing through that area at risk for exposure to it. This is why people who have not been trained to properly dispose of it are advised not to even attempt to do so. When the presence of asbestos is suspected, a professional who has undergone asbestos removal and HAZWOPER training should be called in.


3. Properties that have asbestos depreciate in value.

Because of the threat to humans and the environment that asbestos poses, properties found to contain it often depreciate quickly in value. This is one of the other reasons why building materials no longer contain this substance.


While asbestos certainly has quite a number of industrial and commercial uses, its consequences on human and environmental health far outweighs any benefits we can get out of them. This is the very reason why asbestos, in modern times, is no longer as rampantly used as it was just a few decades ago.