ABC of Asbestosis Laws – I

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The Romans called it ‘amiantus’ that means ‘unpolluted’, whilst over the years asbestos has proved itself to be the ‘perfect pollutant’. The history of this seemingly miraculous substance dates back up to 2500 B.C. In Neolithic age asbestos was used as a temper for ceramic. Prehistoric shards and ware that contains asbestos had been found in Nordic region. Since ancient time it was known to Greeks and Roman that asbestos had low thermal conductivity, and is resistant to acids and fire. Moreover its adverse biological effects were also know, however this pale white substance had casted spells of its miraculous properties on even learned men of that era including Greek geographer Strabo and the Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder in a way that they ignored all its harmful effects despite knowing that slaves wove asbestos into cloth used to die young.

Because of its unique properties asbestos was a material that only rich people can afford in ancient time. Greeks used asbestos for the wicks of the eternal flames of the vestal virgins, as the funeral dress for the cremation of their kings. Asbestos was also used make napkins. It is said that Romans used to throw asbestos napkins in fire to clean them and they do come out whiter than they went in. Moreover, asbestos was woven into cloth linings for suits of armor while asbestos paper was used for writings as well as asbestos textiles were used by the wealthy.

Did people in the Middle Ages wiser than modern and so called advanced civilizations? For use of asbestos was declined up to great extent in Middle Ages, they might took serious note of hazardous effects of asbestos. However it is rumored that Charlemagne had asbestos tablecloths. They also say that Marco Polo had seen textile items made of asbestos cloth on his travel and observed asbestos mining and weaving of asbestos cloth in Asia.

In the next article of this ‘ABC of Asbestosis Laws’ series, I will disclose how Industrial Revolution made use of asbestos wide spread, which industries commence extensive use of asbestos in spite of all ancient observations of this slow poison substance. I will also discuss the way entrepreneurs unseen its hazardous effects and did not care to use other less hazardous substances and exposed millions of workers to this dangerous substance.

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