Although asbestos enjoyed a large amount of popularity during the ancient Greek and Roman times, it lost its status as a miraculous material until the Industrial Revolution. During the Industrial Revolution, people realized the amazing properties of asbestos that made it a great insulator for the engines and heating elements in buildings and ships. Thus, it’s no surprise that asbestos is so prominent in historical buildings.
If you are interesting in preserving a historical building, you may have to deal with the presence of asbestos. As a silicate mineral, asbestos has incredible insulating properties. It resists heat, flame, chemicals, electricity, and biodegradation. Additionally, asbestos on its own has high tensile strength and flexibility. Thus, it is no surprise that it became a popular additive to components for the construction, shipping, and even automotive industries.
In the construction industry, asbestos was basically a valued material from floor to roof before doctors and researchers realized the dangers of this material. Construction workers, plumbers, electricians, and other construction-related workers added asbestos to vinyl flooring, counter tops, insulation, fire doors, roofing tar, roofing tile, and many other components of building.
Sadly, it was not until the late 1950s that doctors uncovered the direct tie between asbestos and mesothelioma, a deadly cancer that attacks the various linings of the body-lung, heart, abdomen, and even testes. Additionally, research has also provided links for asbestos exposure and lung, throat, esophageal, gastrointestinal, colorectal, and even kidney cancers. Thus, by the time asbestos was banned in the 1980s, many people had already been exposed to this carcinogen.
Now, most new buildings do not contain asbestos. However, for people who are interested in preserving historic structures, you also have to take into account the dangers posed by this material. Asbestos is not hazardous until it becomes airborne. Once it becomes airborne, people can inhale and ingest this material. Your body cannot break down asbestos, so the fibers can become permanently lodged in your tissues.
Asbestos that can become airborne is called friable, while fibers that are clumped together and unable to separate are deemed non-friable. Even non-friable asbestos can become friable with things like age and friction. Thus, asbestos in an older building can be very friable. If you are looking to preserve a historic building, it is a good idea to check for asbestos first. This way, you know what renovations you may need. Although some asbestos may have to be stripped out entirely, you may be able to coat it with special paints that block the microscopic fibers form becoming airborne.
Whether you were exposed to asbestos in a historic building or in a newer structure, you can develop the deadly cancer of mesothelioma. If you or someone you know has mesothelioma after asbestos exposure, you should speak with an asbestos attorney about your options.