Asbestos is only dangerous if the fibers become airborne, by breaking apart materials containing asbestos, which makes insulation containing asbestos expensive to remove.

When first discovered, asbestos was thought to be so wonderful, it was used in almost all materials coming in contact with fire, including kitchen gloves and artificial fireplace logs. Many residential and business buildings used to have insulation containing asbestos, including a sort of spray-on covering on ceiling tiles; whenever anyone cleaned them with a broom, particles would be knocked down and give all residents a high probability of getting cancer or asbestosis.

Lawsuits in the 70's and 80's regarding asbestos in buildings almost bankrupted Lloyd's of London, a fact they hid from other policy holders which now has them in very big trouble: they didn't have the money to cover other potential large claims.

The United State Environmental Protection Agency provides a wealth of information about asbestos, including how to find it in your home, how to protect yourself if you think you are in danger, and how to remove asbestos. (Read more online at: http://yosemite.epa.gov/r5/r5ard.nsf/2f86cbca09880b61862565fe00588192/a37f2222296572e58625660200520576?OpenDocument ) A lot of removal of asbestos in the US is handled by your local county's Air Pollution Control District.

One aspect about asbestos is that smoking in a place with asbestos products in it vastly multiplies the chances of getting lung cancer. Asbestos was once considered to be such the wonder insulator, that Lucky Strike cigarettes used to contain asbestos in their filters.

This writeup was inspired by Noether's daily log on July 30, 2000.

There are several types of asbestos fibres, namely chrysotile, amosite and crocidolite. Of these, crocidolite is the most dangerous with regards to causing pulmonary disease, including asbestosis, mesothelioma, fibrosis, pleural plaques, pleural fibrosis, pleural effusion and lung cancer.

The problem with asbestos exposure is that pulmonary disease may take twenty or more years to develop. This has led to much litigation with regards to people who were exposed to asbestos during their work, especially asbestos miners, builders, carpenters and asbestos removers.

All the hysteria about asbestos is just wasted time, and the now large industry of "asbestos-removal" is really wasted money. The ban on it has costed america hundreds of billions of dollars.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring substance, and as alex.tan mentioned above, it has a variety of other forms. It has six naturally occurring forms and three of them have been used commercially. They are more commonly known as white, brown, and blue asbestos.

95% of all asbestos ever used in the United States is white, chrysolite and most of it has been imported from Canada. The white form is made up of rolled up sheets, that make "scroll-like" fibers. This is very different from the blue and brown varieties which are made of sharp needle fibers. The blue and brown types have never been used widely in the United States excet for in world war II when blue asbestos was imported from South Africa for naval shipbuilding. This is just about the only exception. Brown asbestos has been used very rarely in old factory buildings. And it is very important to note that the only form of asbestos ever used in schools or public buildings is white asbestos. Both the blue and brown form can cause cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. White asbestos does not (which is 95% of that used in the US).

Blue asbestos is deadly and white is quite harmless and it all has to do with their physical properties. White asbestos has a very high surface area and low density. White asbestos is ejected very easily if inhaled and if it is captured in the lungs for a long period of time, it will tend to dissolve. Blue asbestos, however, with it's needle shape tends to penetrate the lungs and become lodged very easily. They will not dissolve before damage is done.

The saying "One fiber can kill" was used widely in the campaign against asbestos. The theory was that if one million fibers can kill a man then if one fiber is inhaled then there is one chance in a million that it will kill. This is utterly ignorant.

Life-long exposure to white asbestos in concentrations up to 2 white fibers per cubic centimeter has caused no ill-effects to asbestos mining and processing personnel in Ontario. At this concentration, one would breathe in several thousand fibers per breath and over 10 billion fibers per year. Billions of fibers per year killed no one in Canada. Why would one lone fiber do the job? Still, the EPA claims a concentration of 0.001 fibers of any type of asbestos per cubic centimeter to be a serious health risk in schools and public buildings (all of which conain only white asbestos and usually have a concentration much lower than that inside buildings.

White asbestos is commonly found in the air and water in North America. California, Quebec, and Ontario all have a very high quantity of asbestos containing serpentine rock. It has been known since world war II that the blue and brown varieties of asbestos are dangerous. We knew that from premature deaths of shipyard workers and factory workers in New Jersey, but practically all of the deaths occurred in smokers. Non-smokers appeared to be much less affected. The third time a notable effect of blue asbestos was noticed was int he 1950s when the Lorillard Tobacco Company introduced Kent cigarettes with new Micronite filters. The filters were made out of blue asbestos. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, 28 of the 33 workers employed to make the filters died asbestos-related deaths. This is a death rate 325% higher than normal. The legitimate white asbestos companies had to pay for the small amount of people who used the fatal blue and brown types of asbestos.

The Canadian "Royal Commission on Matters of Health and Safety Arising from the Use of Asbestos in Ontario" reported in 1984:
"Even a building whose air hase a white asbestos fiber level up to ten times greater tha that found in the typical outdoor air would create a risk of fatality less than one fiftieth of the risk of a fatal automobile accident while driving to and from the building."
It also concluded that non-occupational exposure to white asbestos has a risk 10,000 times less than that of cigarette smoking and that "asbestos in building air will almost never pose a health hazard to the building occupants."

The EPA established it's own panel to create a report that they could use to ban asbestos. They did. At the time, they really needed some reputable scientific expertise to back them up and make them sound impartial. The organization was run by William Reilly at the time, a business man with no real scientific knowledge. The EPA had 16,000 employees in 1989 but it didn't have one single scientist.

The public was to pay the several billion dollar burden placed by the infamous ban on asbestos, all because of an organization employing no legitamate scientists. Sheesh.

Sources: American Lung Association http://www.lungusa.org/air/envasbestos.html ; Global Warming in a Politically Correct Climate, M. Mihkel Mathiesen ; Occupational Safety and Health Administration http://www.osha-slc.gov/SLTC/asbestos/index.html ; Environmental Protection Agency http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/index.htm
armor-plated = A = asbestos cork award

asbestos adj.

[common] Used as a modifier to anything intended to protect one from flames; also in other highly flame-suggestive usages. See, for example, asbestos longjohns and asbestos cork award.

--The Jargon File version 4.3.1, ed. ESR, autonoded by rescdsk.

Asbestos, a variety of hornblende, which itself is classified by Dana as a synonym or subdivision of emphibole.


Entry from Everybody's Cyclopedia, 1912.

As*bes"tus, As*bes"tos [L. asbestos (NL. asbestus) a kind of mineral unaffected by fire, Gr. (prop. an adj.) inextinguishable; priv. + to extinguish.] Min.

A variety of amphibole or of pyroxene, occurring in long and delicate fibers, or in fibrous masses or seams, usually of a white, gray, or green-gray color. The name is also given to a similar variety of serpentine.

⇒ The finer varieties have been wrought into gloves and cloth which are incombustible. The cloth was formerly used as a shroud for dead bodies, and has been recommended for firemen's clothes. Asbestus in also employed in the manufacture of iron safes, for fireproof roofing, and for lampwicks. Some varieties are called amianthus.

Dana.

 

© Webster 1913.

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