Asbestos was recognized for centuries before scientists and industrialists saw it as the dream answer to acid and heat resistance. Asbestos did not conduct electricity and was resistant to the massive heating/cooling cycles that were the basis of the industrial revolution. No wonder the great industrial corporations of the late-19th and 20th centuries embraced asbestos with such fervor.
It was not until the early 1960s that the first warnings of a wolf in sheep’s clothing appeared in medical literature, with Wagner describing several cases of a rare lung cancer (mesothelioma) in asbestos miners in South Africa. Other researchers of that time also find here the asbestos survey capability to cause cancer and other illnesses – primarily of the respiratory tract. Occupational diseases are the price society pays for industry’s past willingness to accept health risks as a justifiable cost of doing business. More correctly stated, it is the price that workers are paying. And now like the old Ontario Hydro stranded debit it falls to the public of Ontario in the 21st century to pick up the cost of the past’s excessive ways.
However, when a surgeon looks at a pre-malignant or malignant polyp in a patient’s colon, there is no reliable indicator to determine if pre-cancer or cancerous changes were caused by asbestos. As we know, with most cancers the causes are multi-factorial. Diet has something to do with the appearance of bowel cancer, as have genetics and, unfortunately, asbestos. There is strong epidemiological evidence supporting the notion that these cancers appear more frequently in asbestos-exposed than non-exposed workers. Asbestos minerals consist of thin, plaster board that have a parallel arrangement. Nonfibrous forms of tremolite, actinolite, and anthophyllite also are found naturally. However, because they are not fibrous, they are not classified as asbestos minerals. Amphibole asbestos fibers are generally brittle and often have a rod- or needle-like shape, whereas chrysotile asbestos fibers are flexible and curved.