It is hard to look back on the history of asbestos use in America without wondering, "Why?" Why did it take so long for asbestos to be phased out of our military, schools, and products? An even bigger question you might be asking is: "Just where is asbestos still present today?"
Asbestos is still not banned in America. Products are allowed to be comprised of less than 1% of asbestos, the known cause of asbestosis, mesothelioma, and lung cancer. While a small dose of asbestos does not guarantee the development of any disease, prolonged exposure can result in abnormal cell formation and lead to bigger problems within the respiratory system.
It is wise to avoid asbestos all together, but it can be difficult when it seems to be everywhere. Let's take a look at five of the common products in which asbestos was present:
Schools are just one of the common places asbestos could be found. Most U.S. schools were built between 1950 and 1969, a time in which asbestos was used heavily in the construction of residential and commercial buildings. Not only were the schools themselves comprised of asbestos, but other items inside such as chalk boards were made up of the deadly material.
Asbestos was added to floor tiles in the past to strengthen and increase the durability of the product. Today, many homeowners are discovering asbestos floor tiling in houses built during the peak years of asbestos use. Some homeowners choose to seal and cover their asbestos flooring (preventing fibers from being released into the air), while others call professionals to have it safely removed.
Fake snow made from the 1920s to 1940s was made with 100% chrysotile asbestos. Retailers used it in their store windows, consumers in their homes, and even Hollywood used it in their movies. The Wizard of Oz's famous "Poppies" scene is a classic example.
Asbestos was used significantly within roofing materials for its insulating and fire-proofing characteristics. Asbestos can be found in 80% of structures built before 1981.
Asbestos cigarette filters were created under the impression that it helped better filter out dangerous nicotine and tars from cigarettes. Between 1952 and 1956, 13 billion Kent cigarettes with a Micronite filter were consumed by smokers, aiding in the development of lung cancer and other deadly diseases in many consumers. It was not until the late 1970s that the EPA recognized asbestos as a known human carcinogen, and people are still paying with their lives today.
Take a look around your home to determine if you are at risk for asbestos exposure. Whether it is in a product you have purchased or a material your home was built with, it is quite possible that you are at risk for exposure. To see just what exactly a product comprised of asbestos looks like, check out this Flickr image gallery - you won't believe where this stuff has been!