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Asbestos is derived from an ancient Greek word (ἄσβεστος) transliterated as “asbestos”, meaning "inextinguishable" and "indestructible" which was used to describe the qualities of certain naturally occurring mineral/ores found to contain high fire resistance and excellent tensile strength. Based upon the elongation of this fibrous material, it could be woven together for making cloth as well as many other uses.
Reportedly, the early Romans used tablecloths woven from asbestos and typically would throw them into a fire for cleaning remarkably for reuse without damage. The Egyptians used asbestos woven cloths for burial purposes and during the medieval times, suits of armor were lined with asbestos as well.
Despite the many uses of asbestos over history, it was also known known that individuals working in asbestos mining and textile operations were prone to significant pulmonary problems. The Roman philosopher/naturalist Pliny the Elder noted that slaves who mined asbestos suffered and died at an early age from sickness of the lungs.
Fast forward into the industrial revolution of the 19 and 20th century, and the widespread mining and use of asbestos as the "miracle mineral" was exponentially used in many building materials. By the mid 20th century, the cause and effect of exposures to asbestos became apparent as a result of the high mortality related to asbestosis and mesothelioma which became common place to workers. The height of the uses of asbestos The ban of use of certain asbestos containing materials was not initiated by the U.S. Government until the early 1970s while the British Government had already placed certain bans on the use of asbestos as early as the mid-late 19th century.
Today while strict laws and regulations concerning the manufacturing, handling, use, and disposal of asbestos containing materials (ACMs) are understood as a requirement and a potential health hazard by the general public, it is commonly misunderstood that asbestos was not completely banned from use. Furthermore, certain commercially available building materials and products imported under trade agreements contain asbestos.
While there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos fiber hazards, it is misunderstood that asbestos containing materials remaining in good condition (undisturbed) do not pose a health hazard nor is there any regulatory requirement to remove asbestos when remaining intact. The primary common exposure pathway of asbestos to individuals is through inhalation while exposure through ingestion is also possible.
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