October 8, 2011

Asbestos usage

The U.S. asbestos industry began in 1858 when fibrous anthophyllite was mined for use as asbestos insulation by the Johns Company, a predecessor to the current Johns Manville at a quarry at Ward's Hill on Staten Island, New York. Asbestos became more widespread during the industrial revolution; in 1866 it was used as insulation in the U.S. and Canada. 
Development of the first commercial asbestos mine began in 1874 in the Appalachian foothills of Quebec. By the mid 20th century uses included fire retardant coatings, concrete, bricks, pipes and fireplace cement, heat, fire, and acid resistant gaskets, pipe insulation, ceiling insulation, fireproof drywall, flooring, roofing, lawn furniture, and drywall joint compound.
Approximately 100,000 people in the United States have died, or will die, from asbestos exposure related to ship building. In the Hampton Roads area, a shipbuilding center, mesothelioma occurrence is seven times the national rate. Thousands of tons of asbestos were used in World War II ships to wrap the pipes, line the boilers, and cover engine and turbine parts. There were approximately 4.3 million shipyard workers in the United States during WWII; for every thousand workers about fourteen died of mesothelioma and an unknown number died from asbestosis.

Asbestos fibers were once used in automobile brake pads, shoes, and clutch discs. Since the mid-1990s, a majority of brake pads, new or replacement, have been manufactured instead with linings made of ceramic, carbon, metallic and aramid fiber (Twaron or Kevlar—the same material used in bulletproof vests).

Kent's filtered cigarette used crocidolite asbestos in its "Micronite" filter from 1952 to 1956.

The first documented death related to asbestos was in 1906. In the early 1900s researchers began to notice a large number of early deaths and lung problems in asbestos mining towns. The first diagnosis of asbestosis was made in the UK in 1924. By the 1930s, the UK regulated ventilation and made asbestosis an excusable work related disease, about ten years sooner than the U.S. The term mesothelioma was first used in medical literature in 1931; its association with asbestos was first noted sometime in the 1940s.

The United States government and asbestos industry have been criticized for not acting quickly enough to inform the public of dangers, and to reduce public exposure. In the late 1970s court documents proved that asbestos industry officials knew of asbestos dangers since the 1930s and had concealed them from the public. A similar situation had arisen in the 1920s with the careless handling of radium and the ensuing scandal of the Radium Girls.

Artificial Christmas snow, known as flocking, was previously made with asbestos.

In Japan, particularly after World War II, asbestos was used in the manufacture of ammonium sulfate for purposes of rice production, sprayed upon the ceilings, iron skeletons, and walls of railroad cars and buildings (during the 1960s), and used for energy efficiency reasons as well. Production of asbestos in Japan peaked in 1974 and went through ups and downs until about 1990, when production began to drop severely.

In Australia, asbestos was widely used in construction and other industries between 1945 and 1980. From the 1970s there was increasing concern about the dangers of asbestos and its use was phased out. Mining ceased in 1983. The use of asbestos was phased out in 1989 and banned entirely in Dec 2003. The dangers of asbestos are now well known in Australia and there is help and support for sufferers from asbestosis or mesothelioma.

In the European Union and Australia it has recently been banned as a potential health hazard and is not used at all. Japan is moving in the same direction, but more slowly. Revelations that hundreds of workers had died in Japan over the previous few decades from diseases related to asbestos sparked a scandal in mid-2005. Tokyo had, in 1971, ordered companies handling asbestos to install ventilators and check health on a regular basis; however, the Japanese government did not ban crocidolite and amosite until 1995, and a full-fledged ban on asbestos was implemented in October 2004. 
Source wikipedia asbestos