Historically, asbestos has been used for fireproofing. A wide variety of fireproofing materials were used in the construction of buildings, ships, airplanes, and even residential homes. The engineers in charge of safety features for these buildings provided fire safety in the best way available at the time, through the use of asbestos containing products. Although fireproofing materials are available in many forms, they have the common goal of reducing heat transfer. Before 1980, many fireproofing materials were made from asbestos. Now, most fireproofing materials are made of other materials like fiberglass or ceramics.
Asbestos used to be thought of as a miracle substance because of how durable and heat resistant it is, even though illness and disabilities have been observed in those working with asbestos for centuries. Asbestos use increased following the Industrial Revolution, and soon doctors began seeing the same diseases in workers from mines, factories, and construction developments. Many workers had severe chest pain and difficulty breathing.
Researchers issued warnings and informed the companies who manufactured asbestos products of the dangers of working with the mineral. However, the workers who actually dealt with these products rarely heard these dangers. In the general interest of saving money for the company, the health and well being of thousands of employees was neglected.
Asbestos in so dangerous because of the small sharp fibers it produces when it is damaged or broken down. These fibers can be inhaled and lie dormant in the chest and lungs for many years. The result can be inflammation, scarring, lung cancers like mesothelioma and other conditions like asbestosis. For many decades, people who have previously worked with asbestos or asbestos containing products have developed serious health conditions that can lead to death. People who worked with fireproofing material before 1980 may have been exposed to asbestos.