Uralita and its main secret agent, asbestos

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Uralita is a multinational company of building materials. Insulation products, gypsum, pipes and roof tiles are today its main products [1]. The origins of Uralita begins in the early XX century when, in 1907 it stablished as one of the first companies in Europe placing a new and revolutionary material in the construction sector, the fibre-cement [2]

Fuente: Wikipedia

fibre cement.

1. m. Mixture of cement and asbestos fibres used in sheets, pipes, tanks, etc [3]

The discovery and application of asbestos dates back to the IV millennium b.C.. Since then, its use became extensive and extensive throughout all civilisations and historical eras. In the XIX century, it started its massive use and asbestos is already used in a number of places all around the world.

The first evidence of the harmful effects of asbestos appears during the Greek and Rome worlds, between the I b.C. and I a.C. centuries. “Sickness of the lungs” and “disease of slaves” were the respective names given to the damages suffered by greek workers of asbestos quarries and roman slaves wearing clothes made of asbestos fabrics.

Since then, the history of asbestos is, due to its toxicity, a history of secrecy and even whitewash by the industries using it as a component of its products.


Last Sunday, 8 December 2014, I found an evidence of the history of asbestos as a secret agent. It is all about a copy of the Uralita´s Manual General nº3 (1956) I found in the Sant Antony market of books and collections, in Barcelona.

Safety is not a minor field in the book. There is a comprehensive section dedicated to the use, handling and piping assembly with precise safety measures during the reception, load and unload. There are also instructions -including safety instructions- about the way how the trenches must be excavated prior to the piping installation.

According to this detail level, in the section on “how to cut Uralita´s pipes” any description or reference on the risk of asbestos fibres exposure and the subsequent safety measures is a must. Surprisingly, nothing of this appears, despite that the level of the book worths it in any of its 1.019 pages. Furthermore, this omission seems to be forced, leaving an excellent technical book at the grade of incomplete and improvable.

For Uralita, asbestos was a secret agent.

Nowadays, the company Uralita faces a number of claims for the workers exposure to asbestos fibres for too long.

[1] URALITA. 2014. Overview of Uralita. http://www.uralita.com/en-GB/General_Inf/Pages/overview-uralita.aspx. Consulted 8 dic 2014.
[2] URALITA. 2014. History. http://www.uralita.com/en-GB/General_Inf/Pages/history.aspx. Consulted 8 dic 2014.
[3] DICCIONARIO DE LA LENGUA ESPAÑOLA. Oct 2014. Fibrocemento. http://lema.rae.es/drae/?val=fibrocemento. Consulted 8 dic 2014.

ARAGON VALLEY. 26 jan 2014. Nanotechnology as a disruptive factor in Occupational Safety and Health, Environment. http://www.aragonvalley.com/en/nanotechnology-disruptive-factor-occupational-safety-health-and-environment/. Consulted 8 dic 2014. 
ASBESTOS.COM. 22 ago 2014. History of asbestos. http://www.asbestos.com/asbestos/history/. Consultado 8 dic 2014.
URALITA. 1956. Manual General nº3 de Uralita S.A.. Editorial Dossat.