In 1930, the London, U.K. firm of Mereweather & Price published the results of a survey of 363 textile factory workers in England. Out of this group, over 26% showed signs of asbestosis – a respiratory disease of the lungs caused by exposure to asbestos fibers.
Among those identified as being at high risk for exposure to asbestos fibers are textile workers whose job it was to weave asbestos fibers into cloth. Ironically, the clothing being manufactured in these plants was intended to be protective, particularly against heat and flame.
Asbestiform minerals are literally a type of stone. Like stone, these minerals – of which six have been in common use over the decades – are resistant to heat, flame, electrical current, moisture and corrosive chemicals, and have a tensile strength equal to piano wire. Unlike stone, they are soft and pliable – very similar to cotton – and can easily be woven into cloth.
The connection between asbestos exposure and malignant mesothelioma has been firmly established since the early 1960s. It is known that amphibole fibers are more likely to cause mesothelioma than chrysotile ones; most of the latter appear to be attributable to the tremolite that often contaminates chrysotile.