What is Asbestos?

Asbestos refers to a commercially defined group of minerals that are made up of fibers. Asbestos is naturally occurring and has been mined for hundreds of years. Large-scale mining of asbestos began in the late 1800’s as part of the Industrial Revolution.

Asbestos is useful in many industrial settings because of its durability and versatility. Asbestos fibers are heat resistant, strong and flexible enough to be woven into fabrics.

Asbestos is mined from rock and soil, then processed into a fluffy material. Asbestos has been used in many products, usually construction materials, but even household products.

Until the 1970’s, asbestos was widely used in the United States. When it became public knowledge that asbestos is dangerous, use slowed down. Now, asbestos is rarely used in the United States but is still found in many older buildings.

How Does Asbestos Cause Mesothelioma?

When asbestos is disturbed, microscopic pieces of the fibers are released into the air, where they can easily be breathed in by anyone nearby. Asbestos is a carcinogen, which means it is a substance that can cause cancer.

Microscopic asbestos fibers are sharp and thin, giving them the ability to lodge into soft tissue linings where they can cause serious damage to cells. Sometimes these cells become mutated and replicate uncontrollably, creating tumors. Eventually this can develop into mesothelioma.

Scientists have found evidence of asbestos being used thousands of years ago. There is also record of it having a negative effect on people’s health dating back to the Roman Empire. British inspectors claimed that asbestos was one of the most deadly dusts in the world in 1898.

Despite evidence that asbestos was harmful, companies continued to use it without properly warning or protecting employees.

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