You’ve heard about the dangers of asbestos and the precautions one must take in order to limit exposure to asbestos. It’s clear that it is a dangerous substance, so why was it used so much in the first place? What is asbestos and what made it such a widely-used substance?
To answer these questions, we have to go back in history, to the earliest known discovery and use of asbestos.
Beginnings of Asbestos
First, let us clarify what is asbestos made out of. Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous silicate material. It is formed through the collection of mineral crystals in the cracks of soft rock formations. These are mined and carefully separated from the rock to avoid fracturing the thin fibres. The collected asbestos fibres are then sorted by length, which will determine the applications where they may be used and their commercial value.
The earliest known use of asbestos was around 2500 B.C. when it was mixed with clay to form stronger ceramic utensils and pots. Early written references that date back to 300 B.C. show that the Greeks used it to make lamp wicks and fireproof items. Asbestos was used in many other objects since then because it has several unique and beneficial properties.
The most significant property of asbestos is its resistance to fire and heat. With this alone it could be used for dozens of things, but that is not the only advantage it possesses. It is also an excellent electrical insulator, has great chemical resistance, tensile strength and sound absorption properties. It can also be woven into cloth. With so many useful properties, it’s no wonder why asbestos was used in so many things up until the late 20th century.
The Versatility of Asbestos
Asbestos has been used in a wide range of fields for various items, from heat resistant clothing to automobiles to even Christmas decor. At one point it was even used as an abrasive in toothpaste and as a filter to strain fruit juices.
But if there’s one field where it was most widely used, it would be construction. Because of its many excellent physical properties it is the ideal material for construction, that is, until you consider its detrimental effects to our health.
Asbestos has been used to reinforce cement products used in construction such as pipes, sheets and shingles. It’s also been used in electrical wiring insulation, floor coverings and many other building materials. Today, several countries continue to use it to reinforce concrete products, where the asbestos fibres are locked within the concrete.
Protect Against the Risks of Asbestos
Although manufacturers and construction workers now take extreme caution when handling asbestos and asbestos containing materials, we know what the risks are to our health. It is better for us to be safe than sick and sorry. For this reason, it’s best to have professionals thoroughly check your premises for the presence of asbestos and if found, immediately take steps for safe and swift asbestos removal.
To secure your home or building against the risks that come with asbestos exposure, make sure to contact the specialists here at Asbestos Check. We specialise in thorough asbestos inspections, identification, testing and management, and will ensure that your environments are 100% asbestos-free. Give us a call on 02 9621 3706 today.