Complete History of Asbestos

5000 BC Asbestos mines first appear in Finland, Sweden, Greece and Cyprus
4000 BC Asbestos used for wicks in lamps and candles. The substance was known as “asbestos”, meaning inextinguishable or unquenchable.
2000-3000 BC Embalmed bodies of Egyptian pharaohs were wrapped in asbestos clothes to offset the ravages of time. Asbestos fibers are used in ancient Egypt and Persia. It is sewn into clothing, worked into pottery and built into log homes as insulation.
2500 BC Used in Finland to strengthen clay pots.
300 BC Asbestos first described by Greek philosopher Theophrastus
50 AD The naturally-occurring fibers are named ‘asbestos’ by Pliny the Elder, a Roman Scholar. He also describes illnesses in slaves who worked around the substance at this time.
800 Anecdotal evidence of Charlemagne’s tablecloth being made from woven asbestos. In 814, Charlemagne died of pleurisy, an inflammation of the membrane that surrounds and protects the lungs.
1000 Mediterranean’s used chrysotile from Cyprus and tremolite from upper Italy for the fabrication of cremation cloths, mats and wicks for temple lamps.
1300-1400 Marco Polo visited an asbestos mine in China in the latter half of the 13th Century.  He concluded that asbestos was a stone and laid to rest the myth that asbestos was the hair of a woolly lizard.
Early 1700’s Evidence that asbestos papers and boards were made as early as 1700 in Italy.
1712 Chrysotile mined in Russia during the reign of Peter the Great.
1724 Benjamin Franklin brought a purse made of asbestos to England.  The purse is now in the Natural History Museum.
1727 Asbestos is rediscovered by modern man, becoming popular material used for building, chronicled by German scientist Franz Bruckmann.
1805 Blue asbestos (crocidolite) first discovered in Orange (South Africa) and was originally named “Woolstone”.
1820 Italian scientist Giovanni Aldini crafts fireproof clothing from asbestos
1828 The first known US patent issued for asbestos insulating material used in steam engines. Use of asbestos in construction begins to rise.
1850 Chrysotile first discovered in Quebec, Canada at the Thedford mines.
Circa 1853 Asbestos helmet and jackets worn by Parisian Fire Brigade.
1860’s Packings and gaskets were produced, as mixtures of asbestos and organic fibrous materials.
1866 Moulded lagging material made from waterglass and asbestos.
1866 Italian asbestos industry based on tremolite asbestos dates back to 1866.
Early 1870’s Founding of large asbestos industries in Scotland, Germany and England with the production of “asbestos boards”.
Mid 1870’s Identification of large deposits of chrysotile identified in Canada & USSR for mining potential.
1878 First commercial asbestos mine starts in Canada.
1880 The American asbestos industry is founded with the use of Italian asbestos to manufacture asbestos paper and board.
1886 Asbestos pipe lagging materials, based on 85% magnesia, were developed.
1896 First asbestos brake linings were made by Ferodo Limited in England.  Made by impregnating woven asbestos brake bands with resin.
1897 Viennese physician wrote than emaciation and pulmonary problems left no doubt that (asbestos) dust inhalation was the cause.
1898 England, Lady Inspectors of factories wrote regarding the asbestos manufacturing processes “…. on account of their easily demonstrated danger to the heath of the workers, and because of ascertained cases of injury to bronchial tubes and lungs medically attributed to the employment of the sufferers”.
1899 First patent for the manufacture of asbestos cement sheet in Germany.
1900 Initially patented in 1896, first high pressure asbestos gaskets made by Klinger in Austria.
1900 Commencement of mining of anthophyllite in Finland.
1906 Asbestos brake linings manufactured in the USA. The 1st case of asbestos-related disease is mentioned in medical literature.
1907 Amosite (brown asbestos) discovered in Transvaal, South Africa.  The word amosite derived from an acronym of  “Asbestos Mines of South Africa” from the Amosa mine.
1913 First asbestos pipes developed in Italy.
1915 Asbestos brake linings manufactured in Germany
1918 The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals abnormal early deaths among asbestos workers.
1919 Standard corrugated sheet introduced in Australia by Hardies.
1920’s Large asbestos companies experimented on ways of weaving asbestos.  Succeeded, but chrysotile and crocidolite were the only fibres to be woven commercially. Crocidolite being almost exclusively used for manufacture of asbestos mattresses for steam trains.
1929 Workers & their families begin suing Johns Manville Corporation, the world’s largest asbestos mine/manufacturer, for exposure to asbestos on the job.
1931 Asbestos industry regulations were passed in the UK to address concerns that asbestos exposure, particularly among textile factory workers led to lung damage.
1939 In the film ‘The Wizard of Oz’, the Wicked Witch of the West appeared on a broom made of asbestos.
1939-1945 Wartime paraphernalia including fireproof suits and parachute flares contained asbestos.
1945-1975 Post-war construction projects relied heavily on the use of asbestos reaching an all-time high in 1973.
1952-56 Kent Cigarettes use crocidolite asbestos in their Micronite filters.
1960s Health concerns began to surface in the US and UK after studies revealed that low levels of asbestos exposure could be more dangerous than previously thought.
1964 The Journal of the American Medical Association reveals that people who work with asbestos-containing materials have a greater-than-normal incidence of asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.
1979 The EPA documents asbestos as a known carcinogen and announces intention to ban all uses of the substance.
1990s The solid fuel boosters of the Space Shuttle are insulated with asbestos.  One of the few remaining current uses.
2001 The collapse of the Twin Tower buildings on September 11 releases an estimated 400 tonnes of asbestos into the Manhattan air.
2005 US Senate passes the 1st Asbestos Awareness Resolution.
2013 The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) testifies before US Congress about the continuing dangers of asbestos exposure in the US. More than 50 countries ban asbestos, but not yet in the US or Canada.
Today Despite overwhelming evidence of its dangers, asbestos is still not completely banned.