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1942: Asbestos: the magic mineral

The Story

Asbestos is a natural mineral which was formed during intense volcanic activities millions of years ago. But it wasn't until the late 1800s that asbestos was mined commercially for its fireproof and virtually indestructible properties. As described in this 1942 CBC Radio clip, the eastern townships of Quebec are home to the world's biggest open-pit mine. There's even a town named after the abundant mineral. On site at the Jeffrey Mine in Asbestos, Quebec, CBC's J. Frank Willis describes how some of the mining is still done by hand. Asbestos becomes a symbol for Canada's prosperity and wealth. From the 1940s to the 1970s asbestos is so popular that it is found in more than 4,000 products, in everything from hairdryers and coffee pots to talcum powder and potting soil.

Medium: Radio
Program: Our Canada
Broadcast Date: Dec. 20, 1942
Announcer: Lorne Greene
Duration: 3:25

Did You know?

• Asbestos comes from the Greek word meaning "inextinguishable."
• Legend has it that French Emperor Charlemagne (768-814) liked to impress his guests by throwing an asbestos tablecloth into a fire, only to pull it out perfectly intact.
• In 1920 Canada supplied 84 per cent of the world's supply of asbestos, most of it from Quebec. By 1960, amid increased competition from other nations, the number dropped to 46 per cent.


Asbestos: Magic Mineral or Deadly Dust? more