Many hazardous materials – like nuclear waste, radioactive waste and pesticides – are man-made problems. However, asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral that humans have been using for more than 4,500 years. The Ancient Greeks named the substance after the Greek word for unquenchable,’ due to its flame-retardant properties. Ancient cultures around the world used asbestos to create clothing, cookware, and shrouds. It is even said that the wicks used in eternal flames’ were created from asbestos.
Over the years, a few rulers have been purported to use asbestos tablecloths or napkins to impress their followers. The most frequently referenced of these is Charlemagne, King of the Franks and Emperor of the Romans in the late 700s. After every feast, he is said to have removed the asbestos tablecloth and tossed it into the fire, whereupon the stains and crumbs burned but the cloth was unharmed. Several of his followers attributed magical powers to Charlemagne based on this display.
Unusual uses for asbestos aren’t just ancient history. In the 30s, 40s and 50s, asbestos was touted as the perfect decoration for Christmas trees. It was heat-resistant and didn’t catch fire like other substances used in ornaments. Asbestos fibers were often sold as fake snow,’ and were even used in the classic movie The Wizard of Oz.
Asbestos use boomed during the Industrial Age, with new and creative patents filed frequently. After World War II, one company promoted a toothpaste containing asbestos, and another touted its dental tape. Surgeons even used asbestos-containing threads to perform everything from basic stitches to heart surgery.
Even now, lower-income countries use asbestos extensively in the production of brake pads, insulation, and cement roofing. With few restrictions and practically no reinforcement of the safety standards, the option of cheap, durable material is hard to pass up.
Several countries have banned the use of asbestos, but some older products may still be contaminated. If you have family heirlooms or antiques that may contain asbestos, call Sokolove Law today for a free legal consultation regarding a potential mesothelioma lawsuit.