Asbestos is amazing.
That might sound like an odd statement, considering what we know about it today. After all, the mere mention of the word scares people. If you hear that a building has asbestos, you won’t go in it. If you find out that an antique was made with asbestos, you put it into quarantine. And there’s good reason...asbestos is dangerous enough to human health that it should be feared, and that’s where we as an asbestos removal company comes in.
But we have to stand by our claim that the properties of asbestos are pretty amazing, and understand how it made its way into so many products before its deadly nature was exposed. It’s kind of like a lion: it’s deadly, but you’ve got to respect what it does to get the job done!
Enough talking. Let’s learn more about it.
Let’s Talk About Asbestos Removal
What It Is
Asbestos is a silicate, meaning that it is made up of the elements silicon and oxygen. Silicates in their many forms make up 90% of the Earth’s crust. Silicates include forms you’ve heard of, such as quartz and feldspar, as well as those you probably haven’t, such as anorthoclase and montmorillonite. There are actually six different types of asbestos that are identified by their color. All of these forms of asbestos share the quality of having thin strands of fibrous crystals that have the look of cotton candy.
Why It Was So Widely Used
Asbestos has been used in some form or another for thousands of years, but the industrial revolution saw a great demand for it. Here are the qualities that made it so desirable.
- Resistance To Fire and Heat - The most common use of asbestos was used fire prevention and heat transference reduction. It was used to insulate steam engines, turbines, piping, boilers, and electrical wires. Most asbestos removal of today is due to asbestos’s use as building insulation.
- High Tensile Strength - Asbestos was added to metals and other materials in order to increase tensile strength. For instance, a concrete called transite was created that mixed cement with asbestos in order to make it stronger. Some of this was used to create pipes for freshwater transportation.
- Sound Absorption - Cities used to be much louder than they are today. Before the invention of air conditioning, the only way to get any moving air into a building was to open windows, which meant the loud noises from the streets would be let in. And we’re talking about very loud vehicles that knocked and backfired from the days before noise pollution was even a thing. Asbestos’s sound absorption qualities were used in sound panels and curtains in order to reduce noise.It Was Cheap - Being a silicate, there’s a lot of as of it in the ground, so when you add “cheap” to the mix of beneficial properties, it’s pretty obvious why it was used so much.
When the Problems Started
Before the turn of the 20th century, science was...well, let’s just say that there wasn’t a whole lot of government oversight. The “curative” properties of radium, for backaches and impotence, were widely touted in newspaper ads. Every element imaginable was tossed into upset stomach remedies, to the detriment of the user's health. (Fun side note: this throwing-spaghetti-at-the-wall method actually found one very useful remedy. The metal bismuth does have anti-diarrheal properties and gives the “bis” to Pepto-Bismol.)
So what we’re saying is, a hundred and fifty years ago it was very much a “find something useful, worry about the health benefits later” sort of world. The many positive attributes of asbestos meant that manufactures were tossing it into just about everything.
Around the year 1900, someone noticed that there were a large amount of lung problems around asbestos mining towns. As people started dying, autopsies showed that the microscopic fibers were causing breathing problems such as lung cancer, pneumoconiosis, and mesothelioma.
So Was Banned Immediately, Right?
No, because there was money and defense involved. The government dragged their feet for decades, mostly because there was a large amount of asbestos used in shipbuilding. Though the problem had been identified decades earlier, it wasn’t until the 1970s that wide-scale reduction of asbestos was enacted.
Why Professionals Need To Be Involved
If it was just the asbestos fiber (the parts you can see) that had to be dealt with, it wouldn’t be a problem. Sweep them up and you’re done. But it’s what can’t be seen, the microscopic fibrils, that get into lungs and cause problems. That’s why professional asbestos crews have to come in with the proper ventilation equipment to make it safe for the workers themselves and those who will be using the building afterwards.
There you have it. An amazing discovery that turned out to be a horrible killer. That’s why, when you need asbestos removal, it’s important to hire the absolute best company around to deal with this toxic substance. Contact RESCON and we’ll help create a safe environment for you and those around you.