While most people in the United States are now aware of the dangers of asbestos, many do not really know what it is or where it came from. First of all, asbestos in a pure form is not a man- made substance. It is actually considered a naturally occurring mineral that is comprised of six distinct silica elements. There are various different types of asbestos, but their differences primarily involve the different minerals and other elements that are attached to the asbestos.
It has been used for thousands of years, as it has a natural ability to resist heat, fire, caustic chemicals and electricity. However, it wasn’t until the mid 1850s that asbestos-laden products were being produced in vast quantities. With the need for all that raw asbestos came the need for major mining operations, and that need was filled by a firm called W.R. Grace and Co. This was technically called a vermiculite mine, but, in reality, vermiculite was laden with asbestos at that time, even though the company said it was a safe alternative to asbestos when they knew it wasn’t. Continue reading