America changed in the 1800s. With the onset of the Industrial Revolution, which historians say began in about 1830 and spread out over the next century or so, production of goods moved from home businesses to factories where machines now aided in the manufacture of countless products that supported the growth of America and would transform the lives of Americans from coast to coast.
With the Industrial Revolution came many new technologies and many new products. Though asbestos, which enjoyed its earliest modern uses in items such as the steam engine, wasn’t a product of the Industrial Revolution – it’s a naturally-occurring mineral – its use did indeed skyrocket during this time. By the mid-20th century, products that contained asbestos numbered in the tens of thousands and were way too numerous to count.
A list compiled by a government consumer-related agency once noted that some 3,000 “household” products containing asbestos in the years prior to about the mid 1970s. These included items that were handled nearly every day by the homeowner, especially housewives and even children. Even some popular beauty products included asbestos materials.
These items included:
• Ironing board pads and covers
• Coffee pots
• Crock pots
• Electric blankets
• Portable dish washers and heaters
• Decorative fireplace logs
• Pot holders and oven mitts
• Make-ups and talcum powders
• Potting mixes and pesticides
• Attic insulation
• Shingles and tiles
• And much more!
That means EVERYONE in the house might have been exposed to this toxic “miracle mineral”, from the youngest of children to mom and dad. Though these items no longer contain asbestos, even that long ago exposure could cause an eventual diagnosis of asbestosis or mesothelioma.
Those who worked outside the home in a variety of industries were exposed to a bevy of other asbestos-containing products. Shipbuilders, plumbers, pipefitters, construction workers, welders, electricians, insulators, auto mechanics, firefighters, and a long list of other workers encountered such products nearly daily while working in their fields, particularly prior to the 1980s.
Among the products most responsible for causing mesothelioma and other lung-related diseases are:
• Drywall tape
• Textile cloths like firefighter suits, blankets, ropes, stage curtains
• Brake pads
• Hood liners
• Electrical cloth
• Laboratory hoods
• Some plastics and vinyl products
• Ductwork connectors
• And much more
Remember, in its solid intact form, asbestos usually wasn’t dangerous. But any time it became damaged or was cut, sawed, drilled, or manipulated in any way so as to cause fibers to circulate through the air, asbestos became toxic. Inhalation of even the tiniest amount of asbestos, be it from an old hairdryer or something much larger, could have caused tumors to form.
If you believe you were regularly exposed to toxic asbestos products and are now suffering symptoms like chest pains, shortness of breath, coughing, and fatigue, see your doctor and tell him/her about that exposure. The sooner a definitive diagnosis is made, the more options are available for treatment.