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  • Writer's pictureEvans Asbestos

A Brief History of Asbestos Around The Globe

Updated: Nov 23, 2023

Asbestos has been around for a very long time, but it wasn’t until recently that we learned the dangers of the mineral and how it can affect our health. Asbestos has been used in many different industries including automobile, construction, manufacturing, power and chemical industries. If you have to deal with asbestos or you’ve just discovered some in your home, you may be wondering why it was used so widely in the first place.

We’ve put together this blog to help you understand asbestos use throughout the years.

Removing asbestos roof panels

Asbestos in the Ancient World

Many people don’t know that asbestos is actually a naturally occurring mineral on every continent. Asbestos fibres have been discovered dating back to the Stone Age, around 750,000 years ago. Between 2000-3000 B.C., asbestos was used to embalm Egyptian pharaohs to protect their bodies from deterioration. Fibres were also discovered in Finland and used in clay pots in 2500 B.C. The word is said to have come from the Latin idiom, amiantus, which means unsoiled or unpolluted. This suggests that ancient Romans were said to have woven asbestos fibres into a cloth-like material that was used as tablecloths and napkins.

Asbestos in the Middle Ages

Asbestos was widely used in the Middle Ages, once it was clear that it was a fire-resistant material. In 755, King Charlemagne of France had a tablecloth made of asbestos to prevent it from burning during common fires at feasts. By the year 1000, cremation cloths, mats and wicks for temple lamps were made from asbestos. In 1095, the French were using asbestos to fling flaming bags of pitch and tar over city walls. In 1280, Marco Polo wrote about the fabric that would not burn made by the Mongolians. He visited an asbestos mine in China to disprove the myth that asbestos came from the hair of a woolly lizard. By the 1800s, the Italian government was utilising asbestos fibres in its banknotes.

Commercialisation of asbestos

It wasn’t until the late 1800s that asbestos became a flourishing industry. At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the practical and commercial uses of asbestos became widespread. As the mining of asbestos became more common, so did the dangerous health effects of those who mined the mineral and those who worked with it such as asbestos contractors. As we learned asbestos had amazing resistance to chemicals, heat, water and electricity, it was used as an insulator for steam engines, turbines, boilers, ovens and electrical generators that powered the Industrial Revolution.

If you require asbestos encapsulation or you’re wondering about asbestos removal costs, Evans Asbestos is here to help. Get in touch with our team today to discuss how our asbestos contractors can help you.

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