The term asbestos covers a group of naturally formed mineral-based fibres. These fibres have special physical and chemical properties which, in addition to the low cost of asbestos extraction, encouraged the massive use of asbestos fibres in various forms and in a multitude of sectors throughout the 20th century.  The dangers of asbestos were identified in the early 20th century, but protective and preventive measures were only implemented much later.  See the Agency’s work in this area.