Read about the history of asbestos in the book titled simply “asbestos”. A truly remarkable materials as useful as it was dangerous was put all over the world before the truth was found out.
Read about it below.
As a fabricated commodity, asbestos for many years was nothing more than a curiosity used to entertain the wealthy. Later, when lamp wicks were made and textile products such as winding sheets, handkerchiefs and tablecloths were woven, more interest in its possible usefulness came to be realized.
The first commercial undertaking to exploit the value of the fabricated products is recorded as having been established in Russia during the reign of Peter the Great. This factory made asbestos socks, gloves and handbags, but for some reason the enterprise was not a success.
it was not until early in the nineteenth century that another factory was started in Italy for the manufacture of asbestos products. this enterprise was sponsored by a noblewoman of Vastellina for the study of and experiments into the fabrication of asbestos thread fabrics and paper. this effort fostered expansion and was an encouragement to other concerns that follower suit. Exhibits of asbestos goods at the Universal Exposition in paris in 1878 gave wide publicity to the products then being manufactured.
this witnessed the commencement of a period of intensive development of asbestos-made commodities. the design and construction of suitable plant and equipment and many experiments in fabrication process took nearly fifty years (from 1860 until early in the twentieth century) to finally bring the utilization of asbestos as a useful industrial product to fruition.
The fabrication of certain commodities such as rope packings and heat-insulating board presented little difficulty, but the manufacture of textile products took more time because of the special spinning and weaving machinery necessary to deal with the variations in the physical and changing characteristics of the fibre. The discovery in Canada of chrysotile asbestos, which was more amenable to treatment in many manufacturing process.
Following the original and early experiments in spinning and weaving, the first commercial products consisted mainly of fireproof garments, such as coats, shoes, gloves and helmets. later came theatre curtains and more ambitious textile goods.
the introduction of motoring offered the greatest outlet for asbestos products, starting with brake-linings, first made in England in 1896. these were made of woven asbestos fitted outside the brake-band. Later the manufacture of woven brake-bands also took place in America, but in 1924 with the introduction of the internal brake-band, moulded brake-linings were found more suitable. This change opened up a new fie4ld in moulded asbestos goods and the motor vehicle generally was responsible for an increasing demand for other asbestos products.
Meanwhile, asbestos packings first used for steam glands in 1878 were made from carded Italian fibre wrapped in cotton. Early experience kept pace with engineering advance in high-pressure and temperature machines and asbestos packing was steadily improved in design, as is shown by the highly efficient products that are manufactured today.
In a similar manner, the early efforts to make asbestos paper, although more an object of curiosity than utility, was turned to good account during this pioneering industrial era. The earliest useful application of this commodity was in America in 1878, when it was used to protect hair-felt insulation from the heat from steam pipes. Its usefulness in this sphere soon led to more extensive development, and as a pre-shrunk paper it has proved invaluable as a pipe covering since it is unaffected by the heat. the well-known product millboard is an offshoot of the original paper manufacture. the value of asbestos as in insulating medium, proved in the use of paper products, let to its use in various other forms of pipe and boiler covering. In the early adaptation of insulation products, asbestos constituted only a small part of the material, being combined with either silicate of soda, magnesia of cement. Air-cell insulation covering was a later development produced in brooklyn in 1898. All-asbestos insulation is desirable in some cases and modern utilization of long amosite fibre such as felted lagging has met these requirements in recent years.
The manufacture of asbestos-cement products is a relatively recent development, and yet its industrial use has assumed extensive and important proportions and has created an increasing demand for certain grades and quality of asbestos. The first asbestos-cement sheets were made by the inventor, ludwig Hatschek, in Austria in about 1900. The mode of manufacture was known as either the Hatschek the laminated or the “Eternit” process. The rapid expansion of the asbestos-cement industry has overshadowed most other branches, and the fabrication of sheets for roofing-shingles and flat sheet for other purposes was soon followed by manu new developments. the most important of these was the production in Italy, ten years later, of asbestos-cement pipes by the “Eternit” process. this branch of the industry has assumed enormous proportions and is one of the most valuable in industrial application. Crocidolite asbestos finds a ready outlet in the manufacture of asbestos-cement products, and especially piping.
Since much of the initial and early manufacturing work was carried out in the United States to satisfy the growing industrial demands of that country, it was natural that it was to become the largest centre for asbestos-made products. Even though the country is one of the smallest producers of the raw material, it has on its borders, in Canada, the world’s largest chrysotile producers.
Except for the reference to amosite and crocidolite, the above outline of the early development of asbestos products deals entirely with chrysotile, and yet following these developments, the amphibole varieties, amosite and crocidolite, were eventually destined to play a part in the commercial application of various asbestos commodities.
Amosite was first found in 1907, but mining only commenced in 19156, and then production was sporadic for the following ten years, mainly because manufacturers were uncertain of the usefulness of this new type of asbestos. Having only recently perfected the process of fabrication of chrysotile products, many manufacturing companies could not be induced to use the long harsh fibre. Indeed their machines were not designed for this class of asbestos. In an initial effort to overcome this impasse, producers resorted to cutting the long fibres down to -1-in lengths. Notwithstanding this step, however the task of overcoming the natural preference of the manufacturers for the softer chrysotile fibres was one of considerable magnitude, and it took nearly ten years before amosite found established niche in world markets.
The introduction of crocidolite to asbestos industrial manufacturers a few years earlier was exactly the same as the case of amosite. the “blue” asbestos was first discovered about 1815, but the deposits were not opened up until 1893. For twenty years production was erratic. Local difficulties aggravated the question of marketing the new variety of asbestos. Strong prejudices existed the same facility as chrysotile. After many tests and trials and the adjustments of their machines, however, some manufacturers found that they were able to spin a really fine and much stronger yarn than was possible from any other class of fibre.
the development and importance of these varieties of asbestos as commercial and industrial products is dealt with in the following pagers.
Quality and composition affecting uses
the development of the industrial uses of asbestos fibre, as outlined historically above, was only the beginning of a revolutionary period of expansion in the utilization of the asbestiform minerals.
the natural properties and characteristics, already referred to, determine the usefulness and suitability of the different varieties for making various products.
in the sphere of fabrication, such recognized qualities as fibrous structure, incombustibility and other physical and chemical attributes take on a more significant aspect. As a result of improved instruments and technique and scientific research, new and valuable qualities that provide a more extensive range of processes and products have vastly increased the importance of the many varied properties possessed by different fibres.
Previously accepted as integral parts of the mineral, it is evident that these new characteristic attributes offer a wider scope for the manufacturer in procuring the most suitable raw material for the expanding application of asbestos in industry.
Incombustibility. This quality is the primary inherent characteristic of all the asbestiform minerals, and as we have already seen, besides being fireproof, the fibres withstand heat up to certain fairly high temperatures. The possession of these properties, however, does not establish asbestos as a refractory mineral in the sense that it can be used as a fireproofing material.