Asbestos has been used since the Greeks first recognized it for its extreme durability and fire retardant properties. It is also believed that the ancient Greeks knew of its health hazards, and recognized symptoms of “sickness of the lungs” in the slaves who wove asbestos into cloth.
It has been known since the early 1900's that exposure to asbestos can cause deadly diseases, such as mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer. In modern times, the use of asbestos in manufactured materials became widespread during the Industrial Revolution. Initially, asbestos was used as an insulating material for steam pipes, boilers, ovens kilns and other high temperature emitting products. The use of asbestos eventually spread to include a list of over 3,000 plus products, such as joint compound (mud), floor tiles, paper, plaster, brake pads, plastic products and cigarette filters. View a list of products that contain asbestos.
As the use of asbestos grew in popularity, commercial mines throughout the world opened, and the mineral became sought after for its use in a variety of industrial products. The first commercial asbestos mine to open in North America was in 1879 in Quebec, Canada. Mines around the world followed toward the end of the 19th Century and into the 20th Century.