The danger of asbestos to your health
What is asbestos
The name asbestos refers to six naturally occurring silicate minerals. The fact that it is found in nature does not automatically mean it is a harmless substance. It is a very good electrical insulator and highly resistant to heat and that is why it was widely used as a building material. Each fiber is composed of many microscopic fibrils that can become airborne when it is cut, broken or abraded by rough handling.
When it is airborne, it can be inhaled and can contribute to grave health issues and damage the lung’s conditions. Once in the lungs, it can cause mesothelioma, asbestosis, and cancer. Most buildings from before the 1980s contained elements with asbestos.
Russia still continues mining it and produced one million tonnes in 2015. When the health risks became known, most of the industrial countries stopped using it. Actually this is not correct, I should say when the health risks became public.
This video is worth your time. It tells about the history and its health risk. Russia is one of the biggest producers of asbestos. Russia has even got a town called Asbestos.
The use of asbestos in old times
Asbestos has been used for thousands of years and was discovered in a region of East Finland. There the inhabitants of the lake area used it to make their earthenware pots stronger. These people lived some 4500 years ago. They could use these pots for cooking. When it was discovered how fire-resistant asbestos was, a cloth was manufactured which would not burn.
Throughout history, one reads of famous people using this fire-resistant cloth. Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor, is said to have used a tablecloth made of asbestos.
It seems that Marco Polo, on one of his travels, was shown a mine with this mineral and told a cloth made with this would not burn
The asbestos industry began in the mid-19th century. The first companies to exploit this mineral were founded in England and Scotland. Its use soon spread around the world. Raw deposits were found in places like the Urals of the Russian Empire and in the Alpine regions of Northern Italy.
With the advent of western culture into the Americas, mines were started in Canada and soon were followed by mines in South Africa. In 1899, when large deposits were found in the Belvidere Mountain, Vermont, the production in the U.S. also started.
The uses of Asbestos
By the end of the 19th-century asbestos was widely used.
Its uses include:
- Fire-retardant coatings,
- Concrete, brick, pipes, and fireplace cement,
- Heat, fire, and acid-resistant gaskets,
- Pipe insulation, ceiling insulation, fireproof drywall, roofing, lawn furniture, and more items.
Asbestos was everywhere and as late as 2011, when asbestos had been banned for quite some years, it was reported to still be in around 50% of the houses in the UK.
Japan did not escape the asbestos craze. It was used in the manufacture of ammonium sulfate which was used in rice production. It was sprayed on ceilings and iron building structural supports, on walls, and railroad cars. Up until 1974, its use in Japan was still very high but slowly went down afterward. By 1990 the production dropped significantly. Just as well.
The danger of asbestos
For so many years, asbestos has been present in our lives. Do you wonder when it was first identified as being dangerous to our health? Actually, the hazardous nature of asbestos was discovered a long time ago. For more than 100 years, its danger was known and still, it made its entry into our life through the main door. It was an uninvited guest who stayed far too long.
I suspect that money was the reason. So many products form part of our life and they are harmful, we are not informed and neither care enough to find out.
Montague Murray identified its negative health effects in the year 1899. Then in the early 1900s, the mining towns showed a rise in lung problems and people died at a young age. In 1906 the first death related to asbestos was documented.
Dr. Murray was the first to perform a post mortem on a young man who died from pulmonary fibrosis. This young man had worked for 14 years in an asbestos textile factory. In his lungs, traces of asbestos were found.
Studies in France and Italy soon followed and the awareness of asbestos dangers was becoming more recognized. Over the following years, more studies were done and more deaths officially linked to the inhaling of asbestos.
Over 100,000 people have died in the United States or are terminally ill as a direct result of working in or around asbestos. Many workers died after having worked in the shipbuilding industry. During World War II, huge amounts of asbestos were used in those ships, specifically in the boilers, steam engines, steam turbines, and insulated piping. Approximately 4.3 million workers were busy in the shipyards during this war and 14 out of 1000 workers died of mesothelioma and the number of people who died of asbestosis is unknown.
In the United States, people were not informed because the industry and the government were late in acknowledging the dangers and making them known. It wasn’t until the late 1970s when court documents were presented, proving that the dangers were known since 1930. But the public was not made aware of this. So much for taking care of the population.
How clean is the talcum powder
Talc is another silica mineral that is mined. It is widely used for many things including baby powder, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics. The main issue is that talc is often found in the same underground deposits as asbestos. When the deposits of talc are contaminated with asbestos, its use as a personal care product is a problem.
In 1973, US federal law required all talc products to be asbestos-free. Nowadays there is a big difference between talcum powder used in cosmetics or the talc used in the industry. There is strict control that cosmetic talcum powder needs to be absolutely clean.
Sadly the baby powder of Johnson and Johnson did contain asbestos and on 12 July 2018, a jury in Missouri condemned the company to pay $4.69 billion to 22 female claimants. These women developed ovarian cancer after using talc-based products, including baby powder.
Some new information
I suppose that by now it is clear that asbestos is dangerous. One wonders how, at this stage (the year 2020 has just begun), EWG scientists have discovered that eye-shadow, which contains talc, is contaminated with asbestos. It was found that in 1 gram of this eye-shadow there were more than 4 million asbestos fiber structures.
Do you know who uses this eye shadow? Little girls who will receive the “Princess Girls All in One Makeup Palette” for their birthdays or other events. The age for this makeup palette is from 5 and up.
The package states that the set is safety tested and approved. It’s non-toxic and easily washable. At least, that is the text you can read on the package, looking at the product online. It is sold on Amazon and eBay.
There are no federal requirements to test children’s cosmetics for asbestos.
There seems to be some contradictory information in my post. On one side the authorities and the industry are informed about the dangers of asbestos, but it still is being used, even in little girls makeup sets. Still nowadays, we, the people are not sufficiently informed. I will leave it at that, I am upset, I can tell you. Please leave your comment and tell me what you think.
Source: EWG, the newsletter of 16 January 2020
Photo Source: Pixabay
I find it very disturbing that we surround ourselves with dangerous things. Have a look at the following post. Be careful with the personal care products you buy for yourself and your family.