A material which was once used in many different industries, the dangers associated with asbestos are now well known.
No longer used in construction and outlawed in the UK, the small fibres of asbestos have the ability to penetrate into the lungs and cause debilitating disease.
But do you know as much about the deadly substance as you think? Here’s some surprising facts about asbestos that you may not have heard before.
Asbestos was used since 2500BC
The modern application of asbestos dates back to around 1858 when the industry really began with a bang, but the human race was using this compound for many years before.
In fact, there’s evidence showing that asbestos was used as far back as 2500BC when it was mixed with clay. This strengthened the material which could then be fashioned into pots and utensils.
Because of its fire-resistance qualities, the Persians, Greeks and Romans viewed it as a material with magical ability.
Every five hours someone dies from asbestos
Although asbestos is no longer used in any capacity in the UK, the effects of exposure to it continue to be felt.
Asbestos doesn’t kill instantly, instead taking many years – decades even – to do the damage to lung tissue and cause lethal diseases such as mesothelioma. According to the British Lung Foundation, over 2000 people are diagnosed with this type of cancer every year, and someone dies from it every five hours.
A separate report from the HSE suggests that a further 91,000 deaths from mesothelioma will occur by the year 2050.
Asbestos appears in the Wizard of Oz!
At the height of its use, asbestos was revered for not just its strength but its ability to combat flammability. For this reason, it was used in many industries as a safer alternative to traditional materials.
One such use for asbestos was for making fake snow, popular at Christmas and it’s this application which appears in the blockbuster film Wizard of Oz!
More countries still allow it than have banned it
Despite the dangers associated with asbestos exposure, which are recognised by the World Health Organisation, some countries still actively allow its use.
India, China, Brazil, Russia, Thailand and Sri Lanka are just some of the countries which still either produce or use asbestos in vast quantities. Even in the US and Canada, there’s not a complete blanket ban with controlled use of asbestos permitted.
Despite the fact that the World Health Organisation warns that 107,000 people die every year from asbestos related disease, there are still more countries that use this deadly material than those who have completely banned it.