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Due to it's strength, inability to burn and insulating properties, asbestos was popular as a building material from the early 1900s through the 1970s. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral mined from the earth. Where other rocks typically break down into granulars, asbestos breaks down into fibers. Asbestos is believed to have been used in over 3,500 products.

Canada and Mexico are the primary producers/suppliers of asbestos and asbestos containing products. In Quebec, there is actually a town named Asbestos with one of the largest mines known to exist (Jeffrey Mine). Asbestos is also mined and produced in Russia and South America.   The Libby Montana mine was probably the most well known mine in the U.S. at one time, however the U.S. can no longer mine/produce asbestos and asbestos containing products and the mine was shut down.  The town became an EPA Superfund site due to the contamination from the mine operation. The largest producers in the U.S.  were Johns Manville, Raybestos and Unibestos.

The U.S. banned the production of asbestos containing materials in the 1980s; however, the importation of such materials was not banned. Consequently they are still on the market.
An EPA study of new materials going into school buildings during new construction and renovations found that 85% of the new materials were asbestos containing

Beneficial uses of Asbestos

A fiber of asbestos (pulled end to end) has a tensile strength stronger than STEEL!! That gives it the ability to strengthen and prevent wear and is one reason why it was added to so many products.

Adding asbestos to acoustical plaster, ceiling tiles and sound board also enhances their ability to absorb noise.  Asbestos also shows resistance to chemicals and isn't broken down by acids or biological factors such as mold. Becasue it does not conduct electricity, some wiring covers have been known to utilize asbestos.

Asbestos was applied to boilers and piping to keep heat from radiating away and to prevent condensation on cold water lines.  As a result asbestos is frequently found in mechanical spaces such as; boiler rooms and pipe chases.

Historically, the Greeks used to weave the fibers into tablecloths. Following a meal, they would throw the tablecloth into fire to clean. Many years ago, fibers were woven into children’s pajamas to prevent burns during house fires.

Material classification categories

Types of Asbestos Health Effects Regulations
asbestos types Lungs Regulatory

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