Asbestos and Health

History - Asbestos Lifeline


Asbestos is a mineral made up of microscopic fibers that are chemical, fire, and heat resistant which was extensively used prior to the 1970s to coat various types of material [1, 2]. It was discovered in mines during periods dating back to the Roman Empire (1800s), in which slaves were reported to have high incidence rates of illness and sudden death, and nonetheless became a commonly used protective coating during the construction of buildings, automobiles, and ships, among other uses.As a result, individuals may be exposed to asbestos at the workplace, at home, and in the community [1, 2].

There are six types of asbestos [3]:

  • Chrysotile, which is a white asbestos fiber that was most commonly used, but evidence suggests that individuals have to be exposed to higher amounts of chrysotile fibers than other forms before health problems such as mesothelioma to develop.
  • Amosite, which is a brown, needle-like asbestos fiber.
  • Crocidolite, which is a blue asbestos fiber that is the most heat resistant.
  • Tremolite, which is a multi-color asbestos fiber that was not commercially used, but often found among chrysotile asbestos.
  • Anthophyllite, which is a brownish-gray asbestos fiber that that was not commercially used, but often contained in composite flooring material.
  • Actinolite, which is a dark asbestos fiber that is not flexible and was not commercially although it may be found among other types of asbestos.

For many years, asbestos was used in numerous products including: paints, adhesives, coatings, floor and ceiling tiles, plastic products, clutch and brake pads for commercial and military vehicles,vermiculite-containing products for the garden, and even certain crayons that contained talc.It was also used extensively during construction and in every military branch due to its fire proof and heat resistant capabilities [1-3]. Therefore, various parts of buildings including the electrical wiring and insulation material for the walls and floor were coated with asbestos. Similarly, all forms of military vehicles such as tanks, automobiles, aircraft and also naval ships that were built prior to the 1970s contained asbestos. Military buildings, ships, and submarines were also built exclusively with asbestos-coated material.

However, the largest amounts of asbestos were used in the naval branch [4], and although a report released in the 1930s by the United States surgeon general described the harmful effects of asbestos, this mineral was still widely used. Every part of a navy vessel that needed to be heat resistance was lined with asbestos; this included the boiler and engine rooms as well as the ammunition and weapons storage rooms. In addition, it was used to cover pipes, pumps, motors, compressors, and condensers, for the insulation of the walls, and to coat the floors in the ships. The asbestos-covered pipes were often directly above the bunks of the sailors who were consistently covered with and repeatedly inhaled asbestos fibers while dusting the material off of their clothes and belongings.

The use of asbestos was officially banned in 1978, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began to regulate asbestos use in the early 1970s [5]. However, many navy vessels were still in use long after the ban was established, thereby exposing countless navy personnel to high amounts of asbestos. Furthermore, the repair of aging navy vessels or the destruction of ships released asbestos fibers into the air. Similarly, homes built prior to 1970 and even up to 1975, may contain asbestos. In most homes, exposure to asbestos fibers tends to occur if building material such as insulation, floor and ceiling tiles, and roof shingles become damaged or repairs are made without taking proper precautions[1, 2, 5].

If you or someone you know has been exposed to asbestos or has asbestos-induced mesothelioma Contact us for legal advice regarding possible financial compensation.


  1. Environmental Protection Agency.(2011). Asbestos. Washington, DC. Retrieved from
  2. Goswami E, Craven V, Dahlstrom DL, Alexander D, Mowat F. (2013). Domestic asbestos exposure: a review of epidemiologic and exposure data.Int J Environ Res Public Health, 10(11):5629-5670. Retrieved from
  3. Egilman D. (2009). Fiber types, asbestos potency, and environmental causation: A peer review of published work and legal and regulatory scientific testimony.Int J Occup Environ Health, 15(2):202-228. Retrieved from
  4. War Related Illness & Injury Study Center (2013). Exposure to asbestos: A resource for veterans, service members, and their families. Department of Veterans Affairs,East Orange, NJ. Retrieved from
  5. United States: Consumer Product Safety Commission. (2014). Asbestos in the home. Bethesda, MD. Retrieved from

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