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What is Asbestos?

Chances are, when you hear the term ‘Asbestos’ you DON’T think of a rock – but that’s exactly what it is! Asbestos is a natural occurring serpentine rock that contains silicon, water and magnesium. It has been mined and used for centuries because of its durability to heat, electricity and chemical resistance. Asbestos can be pulled into a fluffy consistency, with fibers that are soft and flexible, and in proportion to their weight – stronger than steel!

Asbestos has been used for over 2000 years, with the early Greeks using Asbestos for lamp wicks. In fact, the term ‘Asbestos’ derives from the Ancient Greek “in-extinguishable”. The Romans and Egyptians used Asbestos in fabrics because it was so durable and fire resistant.

Long considered a “miracle” mineral, asbestos has been utilized in thousands of products, in everything from insulation and other construction materials to car brakes and hair dryers. Pure asbestos is an effective insulator, and it can also be mixed into cloth, paper, cement, plastic and other materials to make them stronger. At the height of its use, asbestos could be found in over 3,000 consumer products.

During WWII, the United States experienced an Asbestos Boom, with asbestos being used to build ships, submarines and even airplanes! As we mentioned earlier, asbestos is extremely heat resistant, and does not break down easily when exposed to chemicals, thus making it a seemingly perfect production material!

Shortly following WWII, in 1945, Asbestos took a turn to construction with the post war construction boom. Asbestos could be found in almost all building materials – from roofing shingles to vinyl tile flooring and literally everywhere in between.

Although its use has diminished in recent decades, there are still many products that contain asbestos, especially in older homes, schools, and public buildings.