Nowadays it seems people have a fear of anything deemed “chemicals” or “unnatural.” But at Amity Environmental, we deal with the nasty side of nature all the time. We help Calgarians with mould problems — a perfectly natural part of the world that none the less causes sickness. We also help homeowners abate asbestos. Like mould, asbestos is a naturally occurring part of our environment. It’s a mineral, a close cousin of garnet, peridot, and other silicate stones. And, logically, humans have been mining for this specific stone (as well as other) since just after the end of the stone age and the advent of metalworking.
Somewhere between 4000 and 6000 years ago, early human civilizations were using asbestos fibers for wicks in lamps and candles. As time went on, cultures across the globe discovered numerous uses for the fibrous mineral. Egyptians used asbestos in embalmment. The Finnish created stronger, more durable pots by mixing asbestos into clay. However, the miraculous fire-resistance and strength of asbestos was already coming with a noticeable cost. Ancient Greeks and Romans noted a lung-sickness suffered by the slaves who mined and wove asbestos fibers. This “slave disease” went largely ignored.
By the middle ages, humans had turned asbestos into a tool of war. They would fill bags of woven asbestos with tar and pitch and catapult the bags into cities under siege. However, it took until the industrial revolution for the asbestos industry to really soar. As the mining, manufacturing, and use of asbestos exploded across the developing world of the industrial revolution, the illnesses it caused also grew exponentially.
As early as the 1890s, doctors were attributing asbestos dust to pulmonary troubles. In the early 1900s, the first death was attributed to asbestos, and doctors began to suggest that those working with asbestos were dying unnaturally young. Asbestos mining was a huge industry in Canada at the time, so the Canadian health insurance companies of the time shrugged off the problem by increasing premiums for the miners while lowering their health coverage and benefits. Canadian working in the asbestos industry were on their own.
Asbestos consumption continued to grow and the people working in the industry continued to die until eventually something had to be done. In 2003, asbestos was banned in 17 countries. Since that initial ban, the number of countries that shy away from asbestos use has only grown. However, Canada and the US have never joined the asbestos free nations.
Today, many Canadians still have asbestos and asbestos containing materials in their homes. When they need to renovate or have part of their home fixed, they often need to have previous unknown asbestos removed.
Asbestos is a slow killer. Many individuals working in the asbestos industry didn’t show symptoms for 30, 40, even 50 years. So even today, Canada will be feeling with the effects of this industry as those who were exposed before the bans or those who worked in the Canadian asbestos mines (closed only 3 years ago in 2012) inevitably begin to succumb to illness.
Fortunately as we move forward fewer and fewer people will be dying from asbestosis and mesothelioma. If you suspect your home may be contaminated by asbestos, the experts at Amity Environmental can help. Call us today.