Because of heat and fire resistant properties, asbestos textile garments would have been an ideal part of our everyday lives. But the asbestos mineral is a classic example of things that are too good to be true. Asbestos is relatively inexpensive and is also flexible in structure and in usage, but can be deadly as well.
Sure it can protect us from heat and flame, but the price to pay could be asbestosis or mesothelioma cancer. Take for example Steve McQueen, the late film actor. He was reported to have been exposed to asbestos fibers through asbestos fire suits. He wore them whenever he was driving race cars. He died of mesothelioma in 1980. His trusted asbestos-containing textile garments that protected him from fire were probably the same ones that killed him in the end.
So what is asbestos and why are the asbestos-containing textile garments so harmful to people?
Asbestos is a naturally-occurring group of minerals. These minerals are strong and resilient fibers. Resiliency makes it easy for these to be separated into fine threads and woven. These fibers are not conductors of electricity, nor are they affected by heat and chemicals. These are the reasons why asbestos is useful in a lot of industrial plants.
There are four types of asbestos used by various industries:
Chrysotile is the most widely-used Asbestos, particularly in the US , which accounts for 99%. It has curly fiber and belongs to the serpentine mineral family. This type of asbestos is also generally used for the manufacture of asbestos-containing textile garments.
Since the fiber masses of all types of asbestos are breakable, it can easily split-off into small, air-borne particles. These particles can easily stick to clothing, inhaled or swallowed and long term exposure can lead to serious respiratory diseases, such as asbestosis and mesothelioma cancer.
If you have been exposed to asbestos at some point in your life, then you could be at risk of asbestos-related illness. Keep in mind that you don’t just develop symptoms because you had an exposure or two. Those who suffer respiratory problems due to asbestos are those who have long-term asbestos exposure. More often than not, workers handling asbestos textile-garments and other similar products are the ones at greatest risks. If you suspect asbestos containing materials within your premises, contact your local authorities immediately.