Asbestos manufacturing was not a flourishing industry until the late 1800s, when the start of the Industrial Revolution helped sustain strong and steady growth of the industry. That’s when the practical and commercial uses of asbestos, with its myriad applications, became widespread. As the mining and manufacturing of asbestos exploded, so did its dangerous health effects on those who mined and refined the mineral, as well as those who worked with it.
Asbestos’ resistance to chemicals, heat, water and electricity made it an excellent insulator for the steam engines, turbines, boilers, ovens and electrical generators that powered the Industrial Revolution. The malleable properties of asbestos made it an important building, binding and strengthening commodity.
While the remarkable physical properties of asbestos were known even to the ancient and medieval worlds, it was the coming of the Industrial Revolution, during the latter part of the 19th century, that elevated asbestos mining and manufacturing into a thriving and lucrative intercontinental enterprise.