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This 17-image slideshow features archive photographs of the asbestos industry in the 20th century.

  • Female workers lie on the asbestos mattresses they have produced at a Lancashire factory. 1914.

    © Imperial War Museum

  • Female workers painting and rolling asbestos cylinders for use as smoke shells in a Lancashire factory. 1914.

    © Imperial War Museum

  • Two women at work in an asbestos factory in Lancashire. The large balloon-like sacks are part of the dust abstractor plant that removes asbestos dust from the fibre. The woman on the left is pushing a sack barrow and is about to collect a full sack from the woman on the right. 1914–18.

    © Imperial War Museum

  • Female workers forming wet sheets of asbestos into shape for roofing. Turner Brothers asbestos factory, Trafford Park, Manchester, September 1918.

    © Imperial War Museum

  • Female workers saw corners from sheets of asbestos roofing in a Lancashire factory. 1914–18.

    © Imperial War Museum

  • Female workers stacking asbestos sheets. Turner Brothers asbestos factory, Trafford Park, Manchester, September 1918.

    © Imperial War Museum

  • Female workers sewing and buttoning asbestos mattresses, used for lining boilers in battleships. Turner Brothers asbestos factory, Trafford Park, Manchester, September 1918.

    © Imperial War Museum

  • Huts built by American soldiers at Loughborough Road, Lambeth, London, to accommodate bombed-out Lambeth families. The huts, nearly completed, are built of curved asbestos, each having two bedrooms, a combined living and dining room, a kitchenette, a gas stove, a brick fireplace and running water. 17 February 1945.

    © Harry Shepherd/Fox Photos/Getty Images

  • Men training at the Naval Fire Fighting School, Devonport, passing through blazing oil fires in asbestos suits. 1939–45.

    © Lt J A Hampton, Royal Navy official photographer/Imperial War Museum

  • Sergeant Raymond W Szatkowski from South Hadley Falls, Massachusetts, helps Corporal C M Marchbanks into an asbestos firefighting suit at an airfield somewhere in Britain, in front of a B17 Flying Fortress just back from a World War II mission over the Ruhr. The asbestos suit enables the wearer to work for several minutes in fire, in case trapped crew members need rescuing from a burning aircraft.

    © Imperial War Museum

  • A Royal Air Force anti-fire bowser with a fireman wearing an asbestos suit in the foreground. Prestwick, 1939–45.

    © Royal Navy official photographer/Imperial War Museum

  • Workmen bolt curved asbestos panels together during construction work on a temporary house, converted from an Army Nissen hut. 1945–75.

    © Richard Stone/Imperial War Museum

  • Mrs Olive Day rolls away a rug that was on the staircase of her South Kensington home. All carpets have been removed and asbestos laid in their place, in an attempt to combat fire bombs. Behind her, part of the window has been boarded up, and the rest of the panes have criss-crosses of tape across the glass.1939–45.

    © Imperial War Museum

     

  • A VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment) nurse arranges an asbestos blanket over an electrically heated frame to create a hood that will help this patient to warm quickly. In cases of severe shock, the patient’s clothes are cut away so that the surface of the skin can come into closer contact with the heat. 1939–45.

    © Imperial War Museum

  • Men surrounded by blue asbestos rocks (crocidolite) in a mine near Prieska, South Africa. From the collection of Dr J C Wagner. 1957.

    © Jennie Hills/Science Museum/Getty Images

  • Children playing by an asbestos dump in Penge, South Africa. From the collection of Dr J C Wagner. 1957.

    © Jennie Hills/Science Museum/Getty Images

  • People stage a protest about the dangers of asbestos at the Barbican Arts Centre, London. 2 June 1976.

    © Evening Standard/Getty Images 

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