What is Asbestos and Why Was it Widely Used in Construction


Asbestos once hailed as a “miracle mineral,” found widespread use in construction due to its impressive properties. This article dives into what asbestos is, its historical significance in the construction industry, and the hidden dangers that led to its decline.

The Makeup of Asbestos

Asbestos refers to a group of naturally occurring fibrous minerals known for their strength, durability, and resistance to fire and heat. Its unique characteristics:

  • Durability: Asbestos fibres are strong, making them ideal for reinforcing materials.
  • Fire Resistance: This property made it a staple in construction, ensuring building safety.

 Asbestos in Construction: Historical Perspective

For decades, the construction industry favoured asbestos for its unmatched properties:

  • Cost-Effective: Asbestos was an affordable material, reducing construction costs.
  • Versatility: Its compatibility with various construction materials made it highly sought after.

 The Hidden Dangers of Asbestos

Despite its merits, asbestos exposure posed severe health risks:

  • Mesothelioma: A rare form of cancer directly linked to asbestos exposure.
  • Asbestosis: A chronic lung disease caused by inhaling asbestos fibres, leading to scarring and breathing difficulties.

 The Shift Away from Asbestos

By the late 20th century, many countries recognised the health hazards of asbestos and initiated bans:

  • Health Revelations: Scientific studies confirmed the dangers, urging a shift in construction practices.
  • International Bans: Many countries, including the US and UK, began restricting or banning asbestos use in construction.

 While asbestos was once celebrated for its unparalleled properties in construction, its hidden dangers led to its eventual decline. Today, it’s crucial to be aware of asbestos, especially when renovating older buildings, to ensure safety and health. 

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