Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was long used in insulation, fireproofing, and a variety of industrial applications. Thousands of years ago, it was used for candlewicks, mummy wrappings, table cloths. By the 19th century, its use exploded because  resistance to chemicals, heat, water and electricity made it an excellent insulator for the steam engines, turbines, boilers, ovens and electrical generators. Asbestos mining was done all over the world, often employing child labor to extract the mineral.

As early as ancient Roman times, people began to notice lung ailments among slaves who wove asbestos fibers into cloth.