Asbestos was very popular in the middle of the last century. It is cheap, practically indestructible and very heat resistant, so it offers good protection from fire. It was used extensively in the construction industry, shipbuilding, and manufacturing for many years before it was realized how dangerous this material can be. It has been banned in many countries across the world, but there are some circumstances where asbestos is still in use.
Why Is Asbestos Dangerous?
Asbestos is made from millions of small fibers and as long as it is not moved or disturbed it is perfectly safe. However, it only needs the slightest of movement for some of these fibers to be released. They can be breathed in, and once in the lungs, they cannot be removed. They used to cling to the clothes of the workers. That hug they received when they returned home could be just as dangerous for the person doing the hugging as it was for the worker.
It was not realized for many years just how dangerous asbestos can be, as it can sit in the lungs for up to 40 years without any consequences. Eventually, people who had worked with it, some just for a short time, started becoming ill and it did not take long to realize why so many of them were dying from lung diseases.
Knowing this, some people are after a total ban of the material, so it is no wonder that people ask why is asbestos still used?
Modern Day Uses For Asbestos
There are some uses of asbestos that do not pose any threat to people. With between 12,000 and 15,000 deaths attributed to asbestos each year in the US, it is no surprise that a total ban is being called for, but used correctly, those dangers are eliminated. The deaths recorded are mostly from working with asbestos before the general ban was put in place. The precautions in place now mean there should be no reoccurrence. Some of the safe uses of asbestos include:
- Insulation – asbestos is a natural insulator and the way it is processed for insulating buildings, there are no airborne fibers.
- Fireproof Clothing – A small amount used in fireproof clothing protects the wearer even more than without it.
- Cement – Because it is so durable, when added to cement and treated, the mixture is stronger and lasts longer. It is also less costly.
- Vehicle Parts – Brake pads, clutch parts and gaskets all benefit from the strength of asbestos. Motor mechanics do need to be aware of it though, and how to dispose of it safely.
Disposing of asbestos safely is best handled by professionals. As it was used so extensively in construction, it is not unusual to find it in buildings from the middle of the last century. You can remove it yourself, but the dangers and red tape involved make that difficult, so there are companies that specialize in the disposal of asbestos. Do not put yourself or family members at risk, and call the experts if you need have found asbestos in your home or commercial building.
Until an alternative that is as strong, fire resistant, and cheap is found to replace asbestos, it is likely to still be used in certain safe applications.