During most of the 20th century, many people had asbestos exposure as asbestos was widely used in a variety of industries and products. This mineral fiber had actually been utilized for centuries, but its high heat resistance and tensile strength made it quite popular as the industrial world developed. The construction and shipbuilding industries, for example, were able to make extensive use of asbestos.
Asbestos is a group of naturally-occurring, fibrous minerals. These minerals are mined in hundreds of countries around the world. This makes them easy to get and very inexpensive.
Asbestos is comprised of thin, fibers that can easily break apart into smaller fibers when they are disturbed. These loose fibers can become airborne and be unknowingly inhaled by anyone in the area. In time, the amount of asbestos in the body builds up.
This creates a dangerous scarring effect that leads to the development of several dangerous diseases, especially mesothelioma cancer.
Asbestos minerals are also very resistant to high heat, have low conductivity and high tensile strength. This makes the mineral perfect for heat resistant products and insulation. Unfortunately, these are exactly the same qualities that have made it used so widely in the construction industry.
In a typical American home you would have asbestos exposure from asbestos wrapped heating and cooling pipes, ceiling coverings and tiles, and roof tiles. Used everywhere in buildings and ships, it was used as a general purpose insulator for heating and cooling systems.
Asbestos Exposure Industries
Individuals who worked for industries in which asbestos was used for years were probably heavily exposed to asbestos fibers. Due to this, these individuals are at the highest risk of developing dangerous asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma.
People who were involved in construction, shipbuilding, metalworking, and mining before the establishment of asbestos regulation laws would have seen the largest levels of asbestos exposure.
Asbestos Exposure Effects
Even at the beginning of the 20th century, it became obvious that asbestos posed serious health risks. These devastating effects vastly outweighed the benefits of asbestos use, and by the later 1970's, this mineral was significantly removed from industrial processes.
However, it was too late as millions of people had already been exposed to asbestos and were at risk of developing mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other devastating illnesses.
Further research today indicates that many family members of industrial workers also had asbestos exposure from doing household chores such as laundry and being in close contact with the workers.