Asbestos is one of the many naturally occurring minerals on the earth. In the past it has been widely used in the construction and manufacturing industry as well as in the military for its wide ranging adaptability to many industrial applications. Asbestos is highly favored for its tensile potency, heat resistance capabilities and favorable insulation characteristics. The mineral has been widely applied in the manufacture of fire proof vests, home appliances and more so in the commercial construction industry. In the past it was woven into fabrics, mixed with cement and widely applied in military services. Today, the mineral is considered as highly toxic and is banned substance in very many countries as it has been attributed with rising incidences of mesothelioma cancer. This paper seeks to broadly discuss asbestos by incorporating literature published concerning it.
Asbestos has over the past millennia been used for a wide range of human development activities. According to the available literature, it was used in Greece as wicks for torches used in the open, in ancient Egypt, asbestos was commonly woven in fabrics for use in wrapping mummified bodies of the Pharaohs. In ancient Rome, asbestos fabrics were used as table cloths and napkin as they were easily cleaned by placing them in burning fires, coming out as clean as snow. Archeologists have also found asbestos in ancient pottery dating back to the Stone Age.
Charlemagne, the King of the Franks is known to have used asbestos woven fabrics to awe his guests while Marco Polo, the great merchant explorer is said to have found asbestos widely used in China. During this era, it was noted that many of the slaves condemned to weaving asbestos fabric commonly suffered from lung disease.
During the 19th