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History of Asbestos

Asbestos material has been around for thousands of years. The Greeks used asbestos in different instances such as funeral dressings for kings, wicks for the eternal flame of vestal virgins, and napkins. Those who used napkins that contained asbestos de-contaminated them by throwing the napkins into the fire. It was also the Greeks, however, who first noticed the dangerous signs of asbestos. Geographers and naturalists of the time saw and named asbestos affects as ‘sickness of the lungs.’ Most of the people who were around asbestos contained material, such as the slaves, ignored the symptoms of asbestos because of its wide array of properties.

There were many civilizations and cultures that used asbestos material in their everyday lives. Egyptians, Persians, and Indians used asbestos materials for clothing of royalty, head wrappings, and suits of armor. Romans used the textile in building materials, flame resistant clothes and table clothes. During the middle ages, asbestos material was at its first decline. Its first comeback was noted around 1700 and became increasingly popular by the Industrial Revolution in 1800. Many industries used asbestos as a material in the produced they manufactured. Such industries included buildings, textile materials and brake lining.

An Eye-Opening Revelation

It is interesting to note that early roman civilizations were the first to document asbestos related illnesses. Scholars assessed that workers who had contact with asbestos suffered from many health issues during that time. This was also a time where the first type of equipment (a respirator) was created to protect workers from asbestos fibers. Nevertheless, it turns out that the ancient Greeks were correct. Asbestos related illnesses became very apparent in the early 1970s. Up until this point, those who were exposed to asbestos had no related symptoms of the life threatening affects it possesses. In fact, studies began in the late 1970s to determine what extent of exposure causes the life threatening ailments. It was determined that those exposed to asbestos for more than twenty years (even if the exposure was minimal) began to showing symptoms of lung related cancers such as mesothelioma and asbestosis. The symptoms that were present in every case were severe chest pain and persistent coughing.

The Current Status

No one wants history to repeat itself. Asbestos related illnesses are still being researched heavily, and doctors are finding new ways to diagnose, treat, and possibly eliminate (pending the stage, severity, and type of cancer) these types of diseases. Since symptoms do not show for an extended period of time, it is difficult to determine how people can be tested and treated diseases such as mesothelioma in an early stage. It is important for the patient to be open with their doctor if they have been exposed, or think they may have been exposed at some point in their lifetime.