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Every year, the first week of April is known as Asbestos Awareness Week. Asbestos, a naturally occurring fibrous material, is a known human carcinogen and has been linked as a cause to asbestos-related cancers and mesothelioma. Despite such serious results from exposure to this mineral, asbestos is still not banned completely in the United States and many other countries. The purpose of Asbestos Awareness Week is to raise awareness and promote education about the dangers of asbestos, the legislation surrounding asbestos and asbestos exposure victims, and education about asbestos-related disease.
Asbestos’ use was very widespread for many years and across many industries because of it’s desirable properties-- asbestos is known to be very durable and fire-resistant. Asbestos in it’s undisturbed form is not dangerous. It is when asbestos is disturbed and its microscopic fibers are inhaled that it can lead to health problems.
To help spread awareness about asbestos and hope for victims of asbestos-related diseases, the MCA has compiled a list of compelling facts about the long history of asbestos:
- The word asbestos comes from the Greek meaning "inextinguishable".
- In the west, asbestos was first mentioned in Greek sources- and was first written about around 300 B.C.
- The Egyptians embalmed pharos with asbestos, and the Persians imported asbestos from India for wrapping their dead.
- During the Holy Roman Empire, asbestos was already being used in building materials, women’s clothes, and textiles.
Industries with Asbestos Use
- Commercial asbestos mines started in the late 1800's and entrepreneurs saw asbestos as an opportunity to make them rich.
- The Industrial Revolution represented a huge boom for the asbestos industry- factories were opening and finding new uses for asbestos on a daily basis.
- The railroad industry was the first to make use of asbestos-- it was used as insulation in railcars, pipes, boilers, and fireboxes in the era's steam locomotives.
- The shipyard industry followed along and made extensive use of asbestos as well. Those who worked in the shipyard industry have been the most affected by asbestos-related diseases.
- The building industry is where asbestos can be found almost anywhere in homes and commercial buildings-– wall insulation, flooring and ceiling tiles, exterior siding, roofing tar and shingles are just a few examples.
Awareness & Legislation
- The first diagnosis of asbestosis was made in 1924.
- The use of asbestos was at its highest in the 1940s – 1970s – estimated 3,000 products made use of its unique properties.
- EPA warnings and regulations began in the 1970's.
- On July 12, 1989, EPA issued a final rule banning most asbestos-containing products.
- EPA asbestos regulations fall under the authority of 2 different federal laws:
Americans are still being exposed to asbestos today, as the United States is still legally importing 100 millions tons of asbestos yearly. Awareness is still the key factor in the fight against asbestos use. Conferences such as the Asbestos Awareness Disease Organizations’ Annual International Asbestos Awareness Conference have helped to make strides in asbestos awareness, but people are still vastly undereducated about asbestos use and it's dangers. Join our community to join the fight against asbestos use and mesothelioma.