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‘The beauty and functionality of asbestos sidewalls. With a visit to Levittown, N.Y. and an interview with Norman Denny, vice president of materials for Levitt & Sons, builders. An excellent film on Fifties standardized building processes.’
Originally a public domain film from the Library of Congress Prelinger Archives, slightly cropped to remove uneven edges, with the aspect ratio corrected, and one-pass brightness-contrast-color correction & mild video noise reduction applied.
The soundtrack was also processed with volume normalization, noise reduction, clipping reduction, and/or equalization (the resulting sound, though not perfect, is far less noisy than the original).
Asbestos cement, genericized as fibro or fibrolite – short for “fibrous (or fibre) cement sheet” – and AC sheet, is a building material in which asbestos fibres are used to reinforce thin rigid cement sheets.
The material rose to necessity during World War II to make sturdy, inexpensive military housing, and continued to be used as an affordable substitute for many roofing products following the war. Advertised as a fireproof alternative to other roofing materials such as asphalt, asbestos-cement roofs were popular not only for safety but also for affordability. Due to asbestos-cement’s imitation of more expensive materials such as wood siding and shingles, brick, slate, and stone, the product was marketed as an affordable renovation material. Asbestos-cement faced competition with the aluminum alloy, available in large quantities after WWII, and the reemergence of wood clapboard and vinyl siding in the mid to late twentieth century.
Asbestos-cement is usually formed into flat or corrugated sheets or piping, but can be molded into any shape wet cement can fit. In Europe, many forms were historically used for cement sheets, while the US leaned more conservative in material shapes due to labor and production costs. Although fibro was used in a number of countries, it was in Australia and New Zealand where its use was the most widespread. Predominantly manufactured and sold by James Hardie & Co. until the mid-1980s, fibro in all its forms was a very popular building material, largely due to its durability. The reinforcing fibres involved in construction were almost always asbestos.
The use of fibro that contains asbestos has been banned in several countries, including Australia. As recently as 2016, the material has been discovered in new components sold for construction projects…
Asbestos (pronounced: /æsˈbɛstəs/ or /æsˈbɛstɒs/) is a term used to refer to six naturally occurring silicate minerals. All are composed of long and thin fibrous crystals, each fiber being composed of many microscopic ‘fibrils’ that can be released into the atmosphere by abrasion and other processes. Asbestos is an excellent electrical insulator and is highly resistant to heat, so for many years it was used as a building material. However, it is a well known health hazard, and today its use as a building material is banned in many countries. Inhalation of asbestos fibres can lead to various serious lung conditions, including asbestosis and cancer.
Archaeological studies have found evidence of asbestos being used as far back as the Stone Age to strengthen ceramic pots, but large-scale mining began at the end of the 19th century when manufacturers and builders began using asbestos for its desirable physical properties. Asbestos was widely used during the 20th century until the 1970s when public recognition of the health hazards of asbestos dust led to its outlawing in mainstream construction and fireproofing in most countries. Despite this and in part because the consequences of exposure can take decades to arise, at least 100,000 people a year are thought to die from diseases related to asbestos exposure.
Despite the severity of asbestos-related diseases, the material has been used widely all around the world, and most pre-1980s buildings are thought to contain asbestos. Many developing countries also still support the use of asbestos as a building material, and mining of asbestos is ongoing, with the top producer Russia producing around one million metric tonnes in 2015…