What is Asbestos Made of and Why Was it Used?

The harmful effects of asbestos have transformed the construction industry, since this material was once used in a variety of products and building applications for many decades. Asbestos was extremely popular due to its affordability, as well as its commercially desirable physical properties, such as sound absorption, good tensile strength and resistance to fire, electrical damage, chemical damage, and heat. Although banned in over 50 countries, asbestos was mined in Canada until 2011. But what is asbestos made of and why is it still in use in some parts of the world?

The term asbestos is used to describe a variety of naturally occurring silicate minerals with a fibrous structure and great resistance. Asbestos is made of impure magnesium silicate and comes in two forms, which are serpentine and amphibole. Due to its characteristics, asbestos has been used intensively for different applications, including fire proofing, thermal insulation, building materials, electrical insulation, brake linings, and more. However, despite its impressive characteristics, asbestos remains a serious health hazard.

Exposure to asbestos usually implies inhaling fibers from the air. Inhalation of asbestos fibers may occur in various situations, but it of greater concern during the mining and processing of asbestos, as well as during installation of asbestos insulation. When older buildings are demolished asbestos fibers are also released into the air, which is concerning for homeowners, contractors and demolition crews. Exposure can also occur when asbestos-containing materials start breaking down over time and asbestos fibers create a dust that floats in the air and is breathed in by people. In areas where asbestos has contaminated water that runs through asbestos cement pipes, the exposure is occurs though ingestion rather than inhalation. No matter how you are exposed, the consequences may be fatal.

Once referred to as the magic mineral or the Canadian gold, asbestos lost its sheen as more and more miners started showing signs of asbestos-related diseases. It takes a long time before an individual will show symptoms, but when it does, it is often too late. It came as a shock to many when asbestos was held responsible for serious illnesses, such as lung cancer, asbestosis, mesothelioma, esophagus and colon cancer, or pleural plaques. With long latency periods, asbestos-related diseases have only become more apparent over the last decade. Workers of the 1970s have started developing cancer at disturbing rates, which was an alarm signal for authorities to start a campaign of cleaning up homes and buildings that were constructed with asbestos products.

Asbestos is no longer mined in Canada and the asbestos industry seems to be dying. However, asbestos in many homes and buildings continues to remain a major cause of concern. In time, building materials that contain asbestos will start deteriorating and releasing fibers in the air exposing people to potentially deadly diseases. As a result, it is advisable that you seek professional help from a trusted asbestos removal team if you believe your property contains this toxic substance. Contact FERRO Canada immediately to learn more about how we can protect your health with asbestos abatement.

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