History. The first asbestos mine operation was started in 1894. It was after World Wars I and II that asbestos use grew rapidly – mainly in the building of homes, commercial buildings and in consumer products. By this time there were as many as 60 asbestos mines in the eastern U.S. alone. The largest operations were in AX, NC, VT and CA.

Asbestos and Health Concerns. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, medical experts began to warn of the effects of asbestos on workers. Respirators were recommended for those working around asbestos.

EPA Bans. By the 1970s and 1980s, the EPA began banning asbestos in insulation, decorative surfacing material, various paper products and flooring felt. In 1989 the EPA banned almost all asbestos-containing materials, but the ruling was overturned in 1991. The result was that products were allowed to legally contain asbestos.

How Asbestos Is Used Today. While asbestos has not been mined in the U.S since 2002, we still import around 1,000 metric tons for consumption every year, most of which comes from Brazil.

Products that can still contain asbestos. There are many, including cement products, clothing, pipeline wrap, roofing felt, vinyl-asbestos floor tile, millboard, roof and non-roof coatings. Automobile components can also contain asbestos, including transmission components, clutch facings, disc brake pads, drum brake linking, brake blocks and gaskets.

The chloralkali industry accounts for about 67% of asbestos consumption in the U.S, roofing products about 30% and other unknown applications about 3%.

Download the History of Asbestos Guide

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