Due to its unique chemical composition and physical properties, in the 20th century asbestos was used in over 3,000 products, including:
– cement building materials
– lagging for boilers and pipework
– partition boards
– insulating mattresses and rope
– fire resistant insulation boards
– ceiling tiles
– fire doors
– sprayed fire-proofing products
– floor tiles and coverings
– water and sewage pipes
– acoustic and thermal insulation
– textured coatings
– ropes, yarns and cloths
– millboard and paper
– gas masks
– friction materials for vehicle brakes and clutches, lifts and machinery
– mastics, sealants, putties, adhesives, and wall plugging compound
Many of these products are still being manufactured, sold and used in the developing word, even today.
In Britain, asbestos is often associated with heavy industry, due to its widespread use in power stations, shipbuilding, the railways, and in the dockyards.
However, asbestos has been found in places you would not expect. The Royal Yacht Britannia was riddled with asbestos, and asbestos has been found in the roof space and ventilation ducts of the House of Commons.
Although the use of asbestos was finally banned in Britain in 1999, asbestos is still present in the fabric of the buildings in which many of us live and work, for example in wall cavities and lofts.
Consequently many of us are still being exposed to asbestos despite the ban, with workers involved in the maintenance, refurbishment or demolition of older buildings being particularly at risk.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website has further information on where asbestos may be found.