For decades, garments were made with asbestos to guard against heat and flames. Asbestos is a mineral, but once it is broken down, it comes in the form of a fiber that can be worked into fabrics. It is also very lightweight, unlike other flame and heat resistant clothes, so it was more comfortable to wear in addition to keeping heat away from the body. Asbestos served as an important tool for both insulation and fire protection.
Asbestos garments included safety gear that was worn by workers in extremely hot conditions, like firefighters. Boiler room workers also wore these garments to protect themselves from splashes and steam, as well as while working around fire and dangerous chemicals. The garments included jumpsuits, coveralls, gloves, mitts, and boots worn over shoes.
In the 1970’s researchers conducted many studies to observe the effects of asbestos inhalation among workers wearing protective garments that contained asbestos. These studies showed that the asbestos that was present in the work environment was harmful to the health of workers. They recommended that companies take measures to reduce the occurrence of airborne asbestos being inhaled by the worker who wore these protective garments while working.
Workers from many different industries including glass, ore, iron, firefighting, laboratory and boiler rooms may have worn asbestos garments as a part of their job. Many different factors could have affected the amount of asbestos that became airborne from these garments. These factors include the presence or lack of a protective finish and the amount of wear the garment had received. The more worn the garment was, the more asbestos could have become airborne. Inhaled of asbestos fibers can lodge themselves into vital organs and cause infection. Prolonged exposure can lead to mesothelioma, asbestosis and other fatal diseases.