This blog was written for ESSS and originally published on 2019/04/16. ↗️

23 Mind-blowing Facts about Asbestos 

Asbestos was widely used in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s but was consequently banned in the 80’s after being found to be connected to illnesses like mesothelioma and asbestos related lung cancer. There are more asbestos related deaths in the UK than car crashes; crazy, we know. We’ve developed a list of 23 mind-blowing facts about asbestos. 

Fact 1: Asbestos has been used in makeup, cigarette filters, talcum powder, chalk and children’s crayons. 

Fact 2: Asbestos exposure is the top cause of work-related deaths globally. 

Fact 3: Asbestos actually refers to a set of six different minerals, all of which are heat resistant and strong, making them a popular material choice in a variety of products and applications. All six have been found to harm human health, but only three were commonly used in the UK: crocidolite (blue asbestos), chrysotile (white asbestos) and amosite (brown asbestos). 

Fact 4: Asbestos was used as a whitening agent in a popular 1950’s brand of toothpaste. 

Fact 5: Asbestos’ earliest known use was circa 2500 B.C. where asbestos fibres were mixed with clay to make stronger ceramic pots and utensils. It didn’t become an industry until 1858 when the Johns Company in New York started mining asbestos for industrial insulation. 

Fact 6: The word “asbestos” translates from Ancient Greek, meaning “unquenchable, inextinguishable”. 

Fact 7: Only licensed asbestos removal specialists should handle asbestos as handling, cleaning, breaking, cutting, drilling, sanding or smashing materials that contain asbestos can release the deadly asbestos fibres into the air which can be inhaled. 

Fact 8: Asbestos has been banned in more than 60 countries.

Fact 9: The ancient Greeks, Romans and Persians all used asbestos and many referred to it as a form of “magic” because of it’s fire-resistant quality. 

Fact 10: Only 40 years ago, asbestos was declared to be a human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. 

Fact 11: The UK is one of the countries in the world where the incidence of mesothelioma is the most prolific. 

Fact 12: Nearly 250,000 people die from asbestos exposure and related diseases globally each year, according to studies in 2017 and 2018. 

Fact 13: According to the World Health Organisation, one in every three deaths from occupational cancer is estimated to be caused by asbestos. 

Fact 14: Surgeons once used asbestos thread to close incisions after heart and lung operations. 

Fact 15: The United States is the last western industrial nation not to ban asbestos. 

Fact 16:  Old fashioned salon hair dryers with hoods and handheld dryers until the 80’s sometimes contained asbestos to stop customers from being burned.

Fact 17: The Word Health Organization (WHO) estimates “there are approximately 125 million people in the world who are exposed to asbestos in the workplace.”

Fact 18: Artificial snow was created using white asbestos, called chrysotile, because it looked so much like real snow, did not melt and was fire-proof. This made it popular to use on film and TV sets including “The Wizard of Oz”. 

Fact 19: Nellie Kershaw from Rochdale died of pulmonary asbestosis in 1924 and her death is the first recorded case in medical literature. Because of the results of the inquest into her death, there was an enquiry by the government and a subsequent formal acknowledgement of asbestos being hazardous to health. Later on, in 1931, the Asbestos Industry Regulations were published.

Fact 20: In 2009, 2 MILLION tonnes of asbestos was mined, and Russia and China are the world’s largest producers of asbestos. 

Fact 21: Due to it’s versatility, strength, flexibility, fire resistant qualities and ability to be woven, asbestos became known as the “magic mineral” and hence became so widely used in the UK during the industrial period. 

Fact 22: The British Lung Foundation estimates that every year more than 2000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma in the UK. 

Fact 23: The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates more than 107,000 people die every year from asbestos related lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis resulting from occupational exposure. 

Know an asbestos fact that isn’t on this list? Let us know on social media. 

If you believe you may have asbestos on your commercial or private property, you have a legal responsibility to manage it. ESSS, a UKAS and ISO accredited asbestos consultancy, is equipped to determine the extent of your asbestos and develop a plan for the management and/or removal. Contact us today at 01268 755 464 or by visiting

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