History of Asbestos Use
In the late 1800s, asbestos, which had been in use for thousands of years, began to be touted in the U.S. as a miracle substance to an unsuspecting public. Its widespread use as insulation expanded by the mid-20th century to include a broader mix of uses. It was used in fire-retardant coatings, brakes, clutches, fireproofing, aerospace component parts, stucco/gun plastic cement, water and sewer pipe and furnace cement, heat- fire- and acid-resistant gaskets, pipe and block insulation, acoustical ceiling textures (popcorn ceilings), fireproof drywall, flooring, roofing, lawn fertilizer, drywall joint compound, dental and jewelry making accessories and many other types of products.
Asbestos has been used in thousands of products and in numerous workplaces. By the early 1900s, scientists and medical professionals began noticing a large number of early deaths and lung problems in asbestos mining towns and asbestos cloth factories. Great Britain made asbestosis a compensable work-related disease by the 1930s; the U.S. followed about 10 years later.
By 1928, it was well established in medicine, science and industry that asbestos dust released from any asbestos-containing product caused asbestosis; by 1944 lung cancer; by 1960 mesothelioma; and by 1965 various other cancers. Yet, asbestos was not removed from most products until the 1970s and 1980s, and remains in some products even today.