Tech & Science What Is Asbestos, And Why Did We Use It So Much?

05:30  09 august  2018
05:30  09 august  2018 Source:   popularmechanics.com

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So what is this stuff, and why is it suddenly back? Mines around the world, operated by men, women, and children, were pushing out more 109,000 metric tons annually. But as its use grew, so too did growing medical concerns about asbestos .

Currently, it is legal to include asbestos in almost all types of American products as long as the product does not contain more than 1 percent asbestos . Why Was Asbestos Used ? Valued for Thousands of Years.

a sign on the side of a ramp © Robert Cianflone/Getty Images - Getty Images For years now, asbestos has been a building boogeyman. We know people used to use a lot of this stuff, we know it's bad for people, and we know we're still finding it in old building, requiring careful cleanup.

Now, the much-maligned material is getting something of a comeback: The EPA is reportedly easing up on asbestos regulation. While the agency is maintaining a ban on the substance, it could allow for asbestos to be used on a case-by-case basis in construction.

So what is this stuff, and why is it suddenly back?

From the Ground to Ancient Greece

"Asbestos" is a generic term for six types of naturally occurring minerals. The types that are used in construction are white, blue, and brown varieties, known as chrysotile, crocidolite, and amosite. It's found all over the world, but the biggest deposits lie in Canada and Russia. There's even a small Canadian town, home of a historic asbestos mine, that named itself in honour of the mineral.

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So why this 30 year love affair? Asbestos has qualities that set it apart from any other material. It is virtually indestructible; it does not decompose Rather, the court ruled to overturn most of the EPA's ban, and instead limited the ban to include 1) the development of new uses for asbestos and 2) the

Did you raise your eyebrows when you heard asbestos is not banned in the United States? For many, the news comes as a complete shock. The countless industrial uses of asbestos were well-known for more than a century, and the material was incorporated into hundreds of household products.

The mineral was once seen as something of a miracle product. Unlike other rocks, it can easily be spun into thread for cloth. And unlike like other types of cloth, it is remarkably fireproof. Asbestos was crucial to ancient Greek society, where the stuff was used within pottery, napkins, insulation, clothing, and even symbolic eternal flames within temples dedicated to Greek gods, which would burn slowly on asbestos wicks. In fact, the word "asbestos" comes from Greek, roughly translating to "inextinguishable."

A depiction of slaves working in ancient Greek mines. © Public Domain - Wikimedia Commons A depiction of slaves working in ancient Greek mines.

After the fall of Greece and Rome-and centuries as a party trick and friend to scam artists trying to sell its mystical powers-asbestos came back into favour during the Industrial Revolution. It was the perfect insulation for hot things like steam pipes, turbines, ovens, and kilns. Its heat resistance and strength made it perfect for brake and clutch linings on trains. 

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People knowing that asbestos is bad and causes mesothelioma. But a surprising number of people do not know what it actually is and why asbestos was banned. Does Driving With The AC On Actually Use More Fuel?

Asbestos is most hazardous when it is friable. So do people who live with asbestos workers, near asbestos mining areas, near asbestos product factories or near shipyards where use of asbestos has produced large quantities of airborne asbestos fibers.

A Dark Side

By the 1920s, asbestos was reaching a peak in popularity. Mines around the world, operated by men, women, and children, were pushing out more 109,000 metric tons annually. But as its use grew, so too did growing medical concerns about asbestos.

The first mention of asbestos in a medical journal came in the British Medical Journal in 1924, when Willian Cooke was studying illness and death from fibrosis of the lungs and tuberculosis among workers in an asbestos spinning room. Soon, the term ‘‘asbestosis’’ began to crop up in medical circles. Following cases of sickness in Glasgow asbestos factories, a young Scottish medical inspector named Edward Merewether began studying the material and concluded that there was a "definite occupational risk among asbestos workers as a class."

Merewether's investigation was limited to inhaling asbestos dust, and the British government instituted regulations in 1933. The problem seemed to be solved.

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26 April 2007. Why did we use so much Asbestos . It resists rust and can be used in exterior applications. Asbestos is a strong material and yet flexible. It has the soft and pliable qualities of cloth making it useful in protective clothing.

a man standing next to a tree: Two Canadian asbestos miners in Quebec, 1958. This photos is taken from the production of a Canadian government film about asbestos titled © Canadian NFB - Getty Images Two Canadian asbestos miners in Quebec, 1958. This photos is taken from the production of a Canadian government film about asbestos titled "The Magic Mineral."

It was not. By mid-century, when product lines of asbestos had grown more than ever, the disease became increasingly associated with two diseases: lung cancer and a once-obscure form of cancer, mesothelioma.

The work of Irving J Selikoff, who worked at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan, was crucial to the global understanding of asbestos. Studying 17 patients at an asbestos plant in New Jersey, "it became clear as we were following these people that they were dying of cancer," he told the New York Times. Soon thereafter 15 of them were dead, 14 from asbestosis or mesothelioma. A larger study of 17,800 insulation workers only confirmed the facts: working with or near asbestos meant you were more likely to get cancer.

a group of people standing in front of a sign: Asbestos workers from the Johns-Manville Corp., a major miner of asbestos, in 1974. Alongisde a coffin, they were protesting the corporation’s refusal to negotiate a medical clause for the newly expired contract to protect against asbestosis and asbestos cancer. © Bettmann / Contributor - Getty Images Asbestos workers from the Johns-Manville Corp., a major miner of asbestos, in 1974. Alongisde a coffin, they were protesting the corporation’s refusal to negotiate a medical clause for the newly expired contract to protect against asbestosis and asbestos cancer.

An Era of Pushback

Eventually, the public protest against asbestos use was overwhelming. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was formed in May 1971 under the Department of Labor. By August 1971, asbestos regulations were already in place. By December 1971, an "emergency standard for asbestos dust" was implemented.

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A look at the nature and uses of asbestos and the life threatening diseases that airborne fibres can cause to the human lungs. Learn more . You're viewing YouTube in Russian. What does asbestos look like?

So why is asbestos dangerous? And more to the point, what is it made of? Asbestos is a group of six silicate minerals, made from microscopic fibres, once regularly used in buildings for insulation, flooring and roofing – sometimes even sprayed on ceilings and walls.

And then came 1989, the year the asbestos industry forever changed. EPA Administrator William K. Reilly, acting under newly elected President George H. W. Bush, announced that over 7 years the government would place a virtual ban on all asbestos products. Reilly said that asbestos products had left ''a terrible legacy of dead, dying, and crippled.''

While the 1989 ban proved to be a major blow to the industry, it was far from a death knell. In 1991, despite decades worth of medical history, a court ruled that the EPA had failed to present "substantial evidence" worthy of a complete ban on asbestos products. Asbestos remained banned in five product lines and new uses were forbidden as well. Despite implementing the ban in the first place, the Bush Administration declined to take the case to the Supreme Court.

The mineral remains in products sold today. 

Don't Call It A Comeback, It's Been Here For Years

There have always been vocal skeptics of the dangers of asbestos, notably in industries that used the product heavily for insulation. One of these skeptics was President Donald Trump. The 1997 Trump book The Art of the Comeback said anti-asbestos efforts were “led by the mob," due to organizing crime's rumored involvement in asbestos removal operations. In 2012, Trump tweeted that he believed asbestos would have kept the World Trade Center standing after the 9/11 attacks.

In fact, asbestos fireproofing materials were present on 20 stories of the World Trade Center, which used the mineral in some of its construction. About 10,000 people were exposed to a host of toxins, including asbestos, in the wake of the Twin Towers collapse, which began to have the same effects as it did on miners and factory workers nearly a 100 years earlier. A 2011 study showed that firefighters exposed to World Trade Center dust were nearly 20 percent more likely to develop lung cancer.

a group of people standing next to a person: A woman walking in New York City in October, 2001. For months after the 9/11 attack, New Yorkers worried about the level of asbestos particulate in the air. © Spencer Platt/Getty Images - Getty Images A woman walking in New York City in October, 2001. For months after the 9/11 attack, New Yorkers worried about the level of asbestos particulate in the air.

But the industry remains across the globe. Recently, a Russian asbestos company began using President Trump's face on a seal for its products, mentioning the President's long-standing pro-asbestos stance, and cited former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's recommendation to let "new uses" of the mineral be considered.

Mountain of toxic waste deemed huge fire risk .
Emergency services are preparing for a major environmental and public health catastrophe on the outskirts of Geelong ahead of the fire seasonFairfax understands the now-defunct recycling centre in Lara, which contains 350,000 cubic meters of highly-flammable rubbish spread over an area the size of the MCG, has been rated by a government taskforce as one of the highest-risk waste stockpiles in the state.

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