Left undisturbed in nature, asbestos is usually not harmful. However, when it is cut, moved or broken apart, and the asbestos particles become airborne and are inhaled, health problems are almost inevitable.
Health problems associated with asbestos are not limited to any one country. In fact, individuals living all over the world are currently dealing with adverse reactions to being exposed to asbestos materials. Mesothelioma cancer is present on every continent, and only some are receiving help and health care from their past employers and their governments.
Currently, the prevalence of mesothelioma cases is highest in Australia. About 7,000 individuals in Australia have already died from mesothelioma since the mid-1940s, and it is expected that tens of thousands more will develop and die from mesothelioma by the second decade of the 21st century. The primary reason for the high mesothelioma rates in Australia is due to the fact that a company called, "James Hardie Industries" was once one of the world's largest suppliers of asbestos, and continued to produce it until the late 1980s, despite the known health risks to its workers.
Countries currently dealing with large numbers of mesothelioma cases are: The United States, Canada, Sweden, Brazil, East Timor, Russia, and many, many others. Ultimately, many cases of mesothelioma could have been prevented if the asbestos producing companies had warned their workers of the danger and provided them with protective instruments, respirators, and suits to prevent the inhalation of asbestos particles.
Many asbestos-producing companies throughout the world neglected to keep any records of employee deaths due to mesothelioma. Typically, the governments of the countries where these companies existed have tried to use the fact that records do not exist to deny that there has been any sort of problem related to asbestos and mesothelioma. Hence, asbestos workers and their families have received no form of apology or support from the companies or the government in their home country.
Several reasons that asbestos was such a popular and sought-after product are that it was extremely cheap, it was available in huge supplies, it could be used for many purposes, and it is extremely resistant to heat and fire. All of these factors sound beneficial – except that the product causes mesothelioma.
Many people today are under the impression that asbestos is no longer mined or used. However, this is not the case. Of course, it is not used as commonly as it once was during its peak in popularity. At one time, asbestos was used in a huge array of products including: cement, glue, break pads, ducts (electrical, heating and ventilation), floor tile, school chalkboards, paper, paint, tape, yarn, and much more. It is now that asbestos was used to manufacture several thousand products over the course of many decades. Today, when any of these items are discovered, they must be immediately removed and properly destroyed. Often, entire buildings are shut down and "cleaned," which is a process that can take several months depending on how much asbestos is present.
Today, asbestos is still used. But, it is extremely controlled and only used in a minimal number of products. Also, those working near it are fully protected from inhaling damaging asbestos particles.