A Short History of Asbestos in the United States

Asbestos was first discovered by the ancient Greeks over 2000 years ago. it was used some in the United States since then, mainly just from imported goods.

The story of the mining of asbestos in the United States traces back to 1919. This was when companies first started pulling vermiculite from mines in Libby Montana. vermiculite, known commercially as zonolite, was used in many different construction materials, especially installation, that were used for homes and buildings. there were decades workers mining vermiculite, and not knowing that they were being exposed to the very toxic asbestos dust. in 1963  W.P. Grace & Company Took over the operation of the mines in Libby.  

the company knew that the vermiculite contains asbestos and did it cause very serious health complications. but they didn’t tell anyone so the mining continued. many of their workers were having very serious health issues and developing diseases like cancer or asbestosis. The owners of the mine didn’t tell anyone what they knew about the harmful effects of the vermiculite had on the workers because they were still making a lot of money. The asbestos was super valuable and seemed like an ideal material because it was fire proof. The mine in Libby was the only one is the country so they weren’t going to stop until they had to because of how much they were making. It is estimated that 400 residents of Libby Montana have died in almost three thousand more  currently have an illness related two there asbestos exposure. eventually in 1990 the mine closed down. The devastation it was caused by the industry and Libby Montana got national attention until 1999 when the EPA ( Environmental Protection Agency) got involved and started to clean up the town. 

Since the mine was shut down no more asbestos has been produced, but we are still faced with the problem of how much is already here. While is was really popular in the U.S. (1970’s-1990’s) it was often used in insulation, ceiling, tiles, window putty, furnace duct tape, cement, dry wall, and many more things. Houses built in that era most likely contain asbestos unless the home owners have had it professionally removed. It is especially important to have it removed when there is a construction project going on in the house because that can unsettle the settled asbestos that could have been there for decades. Even if a house was not built during that time it is better to be safe and have it checked than deal with the very serious health issues later in life. 

Luckily -for the most part- our country has now accepted the fact that asbestos is deadly and toxic. Unfortunately, not all countries agree. Some different countries are still mining and using asbestos for it’s great qualities, like being non flammable. But it is slowly becoming more and more obvious for all that asbestos kills. So, for us and everyone around us we need to be safe by getting asbestos checked and removed. It has caused enough deaths and illnesses already. 

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