From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Chrysotile asbestos
Not just a river in Egypt
Icon denialism.svg
Alternative facts
♫ We're not listening ♫
Serpentine as observed in nature.

Asbestos is a type of metamorphic mineral group that falls into two classes, serpentine and amphibole. Serpentine has a single chemical in its class, chrysotile ([Mg3Si2O5(OH)4]n). Amphibole has five chemicals in its class:[1]:220

  1. riebeckite, [NaFe2+3Fe3+2Si8O22(OH)2]n
  2. grunerite, [(Mg,Fe2+)7Si8O22(OH)2]n
  3. anthophyllite, [(Mg,Fe2+)7Si8O22(OH)2]n
  4. actinolite, [Ca2(Mg,Fe2+)5Si8O22(OH)2]n
  5. tremolite, [Ca2Mg5Si8O22(OH)2]n

Asbestos was used for thousands of years for various things, such as construction and pottery, although large-scale mining didn't begin until the 19th century. It became desirable as a building material because of its low cost, resistance to fire and acid, and sound absorption. Interestingly, asbestos is all natural.

Despite being a cause of lung cancer[1]:294 and various other diseases,[2] and despite thousands of years of people's personal observations, asbestos was not known to be dangerous until scientific studies were done on its health effects in the 20th century.[3][4][5] As a result of these advances in science, regulations have phased out asbestos as a construction material in many countries.[1]

Artificial snow commonly contained asbestos fibers before the 1980s phase-out happened.[6]


The mechanism of carcinogenicity for asbestos is frustrated phagocytosis, i.e., the inability of a phagocyte to engulf its target.[1]:284-290 Basically, when an unfortunate person inhales asbestos dust, microscopic mineral fibers become trapped in their lungs and cause inflammation, scarring, and eventually genetic damage to the body's cells.[7] This damage leads to the development of lung cancer, most worryingly an especially aggressive form called mesothelioma. This mechanism likely also applies to other similarly-shaped, biologically-inert substances such as nanotubes and nanowires that meet the same length threshold for pleural retention of 5 µm as asbestos does.[8]

MesotheliomaWikipedia is an extremely aggressive variant of lung cancer, and an estimated 80% of cases are caused by asbestos exposure. Depending on when the cancer is detected, life expectancy ranges from 12 to 21 months, and most patients only live about a year after detection.[9] The most effective method of preventing this horrible disease is this: don't fucking mess with asbestos.[citation NOT needed]

"It's perfectly safe!"[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Denialism
Though the dangers of asbestos were proven quite definitively in the 1950s, the use of asbestos continued in many countries for many years thereafter. The industry was keen to minimize and obscure the dangers of the substance. Asbestos was simply so profitable, linked to so many jobs, and so useful for so many purposes that there was an extreme reluctance to move away from it altogether.
Fascinating Horror[10]

The danger of asbestos is sometimes erroneously claimed to have been known to the ancient Romans.[5] The danger of asbestosis to workers was correctly recognized as early as the 1900s, and insurance companies began to take notice in the 1930s.[11] The carcinogenicity of asbestos in humans was suspected since 1935 and was firmly established in 1955 by Sir Richard Doll.[12] Nonetheless, the asbestos industry attempted to cover up the risks of asbestos into the 1970s[13] (sounds familiar, doesn't it?). There is still the rare crank who denies the health hazards of asbestos, such as journalist Christopher Booker.

Donald Trump approved![edit]

From Russia, With Love: "Одобрено Дональдом Трампом, 45-м президентом США" (Approved by Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States), according to the Ураласбест (Uralasbest) asbestos company[14][15][16]
Donald is on our side! … He supported the head of the United States Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt, who stated that his office would no longer deal with negative effects potentially derived from products containing asbestos. Donald Trump supported a specialist and called asbestos “100% safe after application."
—Russian asbestos company Uralasbest dribbling on Facebook, 2018[17]

In 1979, Donald Trump hired a demolition contractor to take down the building at the future Trump Tower site.[18] The contractor used illegal, non-union Polish workers who were exposed to asbestos.[18][19] In his 1997 book, The Art of the Comeback, Trump denied that there was any association between asbestos exposure and cancer, stating "I believe that the movement against asbestos was led by the mob, because it was often mob-related companies that would do the asbestos removal. Great pressure was put on politicians, and as usual, the politicians relented."[20][21] Ironically, it was Trump's hiring of organized crime-controlled companies that enabled his demolition contractor to hire the illegal workers that were exposed to asbestos.[18][22] Trump pushed asbestos denialism in 2018 via his EPA director Scott Pruitt, who announced that the EPA would cease evaluating asbestos hazards in the environment.[20] This is some four decades after the last known time that the asbestos industry itself engaged in denialism.[13] Asbestos hazard denialism, with the aid of Trump, also seems to be alive and well in Russia; in 2018 a Trump-branded asbestos being produced by a Russian asbestos company backed by Vladimir Putin appeared.[23][24]

Use as medicine[edit]

In traditional Chinese medicine, asbestos is used (including in powder form) for treating impotence, spermatorrhea, premature ejaculation, colic, muscle cramps, prostatitis, and endometritis.[25][26] It is also used for kidney "warming" and yang fortifying, whatever that means.[26]

Asbestos has been used in Ayurveda and is known as kousheyashma. One analysis of traditional medicines found it in formulations at up to 25%.[27]

Asbestos has been used by crystal healers like just about every other mineral. While many practitioners claim asbestos draws "negative energy" or something similar to explain why asbestos is bad when every other crystal is good,[28] there are nonetheless still people who advocate its use in crystal healing.[29]

In a nutshell[edit]

See also[edit]

  • Talc — which can be found in nature alongside asbestos, but is commercially asbestos-free


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Arsenic, Metals, Fibres and Dusts (2009) World Health Organization, International Agency for Research on Cancer, IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans, volume 100C. ISBN 9789283213208.
  2. See the Wikipedia article on Asbestos-related diseases.
  3. History of asbestos-related disease
  4. Asbestos: mining exposure, health effects and policy implications, Kristina Luus.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Anti-asbestos campaigners have tried to claim that Pliny described the dangers of asbestos to those who mined it (Bk.33.122), but this was based on a misreading. Pliny was describing those who worked with cinnabar or mercury ore (K. Browne and R. Murray, 'Asbestos and the Romans', The Lancet, 336, p. 445)." Scared to Death, Christopher Booker, Richard North, page 326.
    "Browne and Murray were unable to find an ancient writing attributing hazardous properties to asbestos." Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects, Barry I. Castleman, page 1.
    "Pliny the Elder is often said to have recorded that slaves working with asbestos came down with lung disease, but this seems to be based on a mistranslation; see Kevin Browne and Robert Murray, "Asbestos and the Romans," Lancet 336 (1990): 445." The Nazi War on Cancer, Robert Proctor, page 310.
    "Dioscorides and other ancient Greek writers used the noun ασβεστος (asvestos) to mean quicklime; a meaning retained in Modern Greek. However, Pliny the Elder, apparently misunderstanding the use of this word by the early Greeks, replaced the Greek noun for quicklime, asvestos, with the Latin word asbestinon, or ‘‘asbestos.” "The mineral nature of asbestos", Malcolm Ross et al. Archived from the original on July 2, 2014.
  6. Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz frolicked through it. Archived from the original on September 12, 2015.
  7. Asbestos.
  8. Use of back-scatter electron signals to visualise cell/nanowires interactions in vitro and in vivo; frustrated phagocytosis of long fibres in macrophages and compartmentalisation in mesothelial cells in vivo
  9. Life expectancy. Mesothelioma Group.
  10. "A Brief History of Asbestos", Fascinating Horror
  11. Fatal Deception: The Terrifying True Story of How Asbestos Is Killing America by Michael Bowker (2003). Touchstone. Page 18. ISBN 0743251431.
  12. Some inorganic and organometallic compounds (IARC Monographs on the Evaluation Carcinogenic Risk of Chemicals to Man, volume 2).
  13. 13.0 13.1 New Data on Asbestos Indicate Cover-Up of Effects on Workers by Bill Richards (November 12, 1978) Washington Post.
  14. Дональд на нашей стороне! by ОАО "Ураласбест" (June 24, 2018 at 10:28 PM) Facebook (archived from 11 Jul 2018 10:20:00 UTC).
  15. 'Approved by Donald Trump': Asbestos sold by Russian company is branded with the president’s face by Eli Rosenberg (July 11, 2018) at 9:00 AM) The Washington Post.
  16. Did a Russian Asbestos Company Put Trump’s Face on Their Product? A Russian asbestos producer shared a photograph of their product to social media with a seal of Donald Trump’s face and the text "Approved by Donald Trump".] by Alex Kasprak (20 July 2018) Snopes.
  17. Russian Asbestos Industry Earns Trump's "Seal of Approval". Worthington Caron, 2018.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Just What Were Donald Trump's Ties to the Mob? I've spent years investigating, and here's what's known by David Cay Johnston (May 22, 2016) Politico Magazine.
  19. Donald Trump Denies Dangers of Asbestos, Promotes Its Strength. Sokolove Law. Archived from the original on November 4, 2017.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Donald Trump Called Asbestos Poisoning a Mob-Led Conspiracy, Now His EPA Won’t Evaluate Asbestos Already in Homes by Nicole Goodkind (6/7/18 at 6:10 AM) Newsweek.
  21. Trump: The Art of the Comeback by Donald J. Trump & Kate Bohner (1997) Times Books. ISBN 0812929640. pp. 83-84.
  22. The Many Times Donald Trump Has Lied About His Mob Connections: He apparently lied under oath to deny he associated with organized crime figures by David Corn (Sep. 23, 2016 5:00 AM) Mother Jones.
  23. Дональд на нашей стороне! by ОАО "Ураласбест" (June 24, 2018 at 10:28 PM) Facebook.
  24. 'Approved by Donald Trump': Asbestos sold by Russian company is branded with the president’s face by Eli Rosenberg (July 11, 2018) at 9:00 AM) The Washington Post.
  25. Actinolite,
  26. 26.0 26.1 Aconite. This describes the asbestos ore actinolite.
  27. Critical Appraisal on Formulations of Kousheyashma (Asbestos) by Sharma, Govinda K., et al. (2013) Journal of Biological & Scientific Opinion· Volume 1(3):228-231.
  28. Asbestos and Energy, Healing Crystals for you
  29. Chrysotile, Rebel Angel