The written history of asbestos starts with Teofastro, a disciple of Aristotle, which described this material in his classic, “Of the stones,” written about 300 B.C. Later, in the first century, the geographer Strabo localized the first deposit being mined to manufacture fireproof clothing on the island of Euboea. Dioscorides, a Greek physician contemporary of Strabo, mentions in his book “De Materia Medica” paintings and recyclable scarves that were given to the audience from the theater (this was because the asbestos scarves were easily cleaned and whitened with fire so it could bereuse in another function).
It also indicates other use of asbestos in Cyprus. The author names the name of the mineral asbestos. Plutarch tells us of theperennial flames that lit the Acropolis sprouting of lamps with asbestos wicks soaked in oil. Another contemporary writer of the above, Pliny the Elder in his “Natural History” was the one who gave the name asbestinon, which means inextinguishable or fireproof and mentions its use as a shroud for the incineration of corpses.
After the long period in the field of medieval alchemy and magic in the late thirteenth century and after a visit to a Chinese mine, Marco Polo returned asbestos to the scientific domain classifying the material as a rock. In the sixteenth century, Georgious Agricola in his “Treatise on Mineralogy” he included a detailed description of the different varieties of asbestos and its deposits.
The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the whole world saw a significant increase in scientific interest in the asbestos (Publications of the Royal Society in 1660, Frank E. Brückmann in 1727, Martin F. Ledermüller and Torben Bergman). Economic uses, recreational and even fraud are greatly expanded and in 1820 Giovanni Aldini designed asbestos suits for firefighters, which is considered the first commercial exploitation.
In 1828, part the first U.S. patent on the use of asbestos as insulation of steam engines. By 1860 the use of asbestos reaches it’s a maximum as it get their products directly to be a vital element of fire safety in buildings, mixed with tar roofing, fireproof panels in theaters, and so on.
The century ends using asbestos in safes, in lubricating bearings, linings of boilers, and insulation of electrical cables and filtered juices. The twentieth century opened employment in the construction of the asbestos-cement mixtures (first panel invented by Austrian Ludwig Hatschez) and saw an extraordinary diversity of uses of asbestos (tiles, wall and ceiling panels, moldings, boats with plates asbestos and asbestos mixtures of plastics buttons, telephones and switchboards, vinyl tiles, asbestos automobiles brake pads, etc.).
It was famous the immense Asbestos Man shown in the “World Expo 1939 New York” that marked a milestone in the recognition of the usefulness of these minerals. The Second World War meant a significant increase in consumption of asbestos in military equipment (fireproof suits, parachute flares, engines, ships and torpedoes and scrubs) and subsequent reconstruction led the last big boost in trade and use (asbestos linings sprayed on the steel structures of skyscrapers, fireproof mailbags, purification of fruit juices, wine and sugar, sutures in surgery, toothpaste, artificial snow, etc.). In 1973 the U.S. consumption of asbestos peaked in history with 1 million tons annually.
Fortunately after that the use of asbestos has been declined. Largely due to medical advances and the discovery and prevention of mesothelioma disease (caused by breathing in asbestos fibers) through multiple organizations worldwide and asbestos and mesothelioma laws in different countries.
What is happening in Europe today? Well, while spending billions of euros in former asbestos removal, is allowing the importation and marketing of a new asbestos, called chrysotile (manufactured in Canada by the corporation Lab Chrysotile), or white asbestos, which is hidden in flasks, seals and other articles of daily use, in addition to continue to be used in the great industry lagging, but remains equally or more dangerous than asbestos.
The consumer health is threatened. In fact there is a lobby, an international plot the asbestos, which is responsible for bringing this material to be back on the market.