History of Asbestos

The history of asbestos goes back centuries, to the travels of Marco Polo in China. The people he encountered there had many different names for asbestos and used it as insulation or braided into rope. They even used braided asbestos as indestructible wicks for oil lamps. The more modern history of asbestos began in the industrial age when use became widespread. Asbestos was used to insulate steam and fire-powered machinery.

By the middle of the 20th century there were thousands of different uses for asbestos including fire retardant coatings, concrete, bricks, pipe and ceiling insulation, flooring, and roofing. With the dawning of the industrial age, asbestos was increasingly used as insulation in the United States. Beyond that, asbestos was also used in automotive parts, such as brake shoes and clutch facings. Building materials, including HVAC and electrical insulation, floor and ceiling tiles, roofing materials, caulking, textured paints, and wallboard all contained asbestos. Even small kitchen appliances, paper products, chalkboard, and textiles. In the 1970’s, the U.S. placed a freeze on the production of most asbestos products. New uses in products that have not historically contained asbestos are also forbidden. However, today, many products remain in use that still contain asbestos, and must be labeled as such according to federal law.

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