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History of Asbestos


Asbestos Removals Marlborough investigates the history of asbestos and why this once praised material was deemed deadly around the globe.


Interestingly asbestos has been around as far back as history is recorded. From all around the world the fibres were used in various ways, from candle wicks to helping to strengthen pottery. Research also suggests that many civilisations would wrap the bodies of the dead in cloths made from asbestos.


But this toxic fibre became increasingly utilised during the industrial boom and it’s not surprising why. Being highly fireproof it was a very attractive product for many industries including:

  • Construction

  • Power companies

  • Armed forces

  • Manufacturing


Being so retardant to heat and resistant to many chemicals, asbestos was the hero material for the industrial revolution. In the late 1800s, this toxic fibre was being utilised in nearly every industry and trade. Causing a massive demand and an increase in mining for this much sort after product. With so many working very closely with this toxic fibre, it is unknown how many died due to exposure.


Asbestos was used to filter beer in the 1920s to the 70s! It was also commonly used in wine to help with clarification.





Nearly 100 years after the industrial boom, the first case of asbestos-related death was reported. Dr. Hubert Montague Murry from the Charing Cross Hospital in London reported a textile worker had died of lung disease, with the autopsy confirming the presence of asbestos fibres. But it took another 24years before any official case was reported in a medical journal that kick-started the investigation into the effects asbestos was having on those who worked closely with this toxic material.


Sadly, many documents were hidden showing the real effects asbestos was causing. Manufacturers were aware of the issues but simply chose to hide this information from the public and the workers.


But it took another 30years for any regulations to take hold. During the 70s and 80s, many countries slowly began to regulate the use of asbestos. Today, countries around the world have now taken the stance on a total ban of this product, and are slowly removing and disposing of this once praised material to prevent harm to unsuspecting workers, and families.


Asbestos was used as a filter in gas masks for NZ troops up until after the Second World War. The material was encased in woollen padding and was a standard issue for all NZ troops.





Banning in New Zealand

In 1984 the importation of blue and brown asbestos, but only in its raw state was banned. Asbestos importation, and its related products, was completely banned back in 2016. The new code of practice for the management and removal of asbestos was put into effect in November 2016.


Today, only registered asbestos removal experts are allowed to remove more than 10m2 of non-friable asbestos. Friable asbestos, which is much more toxic can only be removed by a professional.


If you have a home built before the year 2000 and are considering renovations it’s recommended you seek advice before removing any walls, or ceilings. Calling the in experts will keep you, and your family safe from this toxic agent.

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