A far back as the Neolithic period asbestos has been used because of its heat resistant properties. Prehistoric fragments of cooking ware containing asbestos have been found in Finland, Central Russia, Norway and Sweden and has been used ever since.
Ancient Greek records referred to this heat resistant material and named its ‘Asbestos’ which means “inextinguishable”. This record dates back to around 300 B.C. It is documented that Greeks and Romans noted that asbestos was resistant to fire, acids as well as having a low thermal conductivity.
The use of asbestos became popular during the industrial revolution in the 1880s The first major user of asbestos was the rail industry insulating the boiler systems on trains which quickly spread to ship building industry because of its thermal properties.
After the Second World War the use of asbestos exploded. Between 1950 and 1980 it estimated that 2.7 million tons of Chrysotile was imported, ½ million tons of Amosite was imported, and 50,000 tons of Crocidolite was imported to the UK.
As time went on, and technology evolved more and more uses were found for asbestos and many different products containing asbestos came on the market from fire resistant building products, heat insulation products, chemical resistant products, health and safety products and durable products.
For many decades the dangers of the use and subsequent exposure to asbestos was not noticed in the UK. Once the health-risks became known, legislative measures were gradually brought in to control the application uses of asbestos such as phasing out sprayed coating and pipe lagging etc during the late 1970s.
In 1985, the UK banned the import and use of Crocidolite and Amosite asbestos. This rule was replaced in 1992 with a law that also banned some uses of Chrysotile asbestos, traditionally considered less lethal than the other forms of the mineral. In 1999 the UK completely banned all uses of asbestos.
It is estimated that there was over 3000 different asbestos products used / applied in the UK .