A Town Called Asbestos
A Town Called Asbestos

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In Quebec, Canada, there's a town called Asbestos. It's an alarming name, one that conjures up images of lung disease and mesothelioma. So now that the town's asbestos mine, once the largest asbestos mine in the world, has closed... why haven't they changed the name? Dr Jessica van Horssen's book, "A Town Called Asbestos", was invaluable for my research. Its ISBN is 9780774828420, and it can be ordered from most libraries and bookstores. Her five-part YouTube series starts here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-66YqEHkzA The Story of Asbestos (1922): https://archive.org/details/0929StoryOfAsbestos According to Plan: The Story of Modern Sidewalls for the Homes of America (1952): https://archive.org/details/Accordin1952 The Gruen Transfer: How To Sell Asbestos, Canada: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIpxelbkI0I USGS public domain microscopy of asbestos: https://usgsprobe.cr.usgs.gov/picts2.html The Canadian parliament quote is an official Hansard translation from the original French: http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/eppp-archive/100/201/301/hansard-f/35-2/153_97-04-10/153SM1E.html#9543 I'm at http://tomscott.com on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tomscott on Facebook at http://facebook.com/tomscott and on Snapchat and Instagram as tomscottgo


Mr. Boppin : "No one from the town wants to talk to me," relatable

Mister Apple : This totally got me. I saw the title and expected an interesting look at a town with a strange name. And I got that, but also an even more interesting look on people reporting on the town with the strange name. One of my favourite Tom Scott videos in a while.

Game Revo : A surprisingly meta video from you this time. The respect I have for you now is through the roof.


Yuval Nehemia : “They were polite, of course, they are Canadian.” OMG

PYL the Scientist : I'm from Quebec and I must add that another reason for not changing the name is that we simply speak French. For many of us, the word asbestos means nothing. The French word for it is Amiante. Although the whole region is named L'amiante

Álvaro Lopes : Imagine a place called "Amazon". It just chills me to think about the possibility.

Elrich Jr : Over here, in Belarus (basically Russia, but smaller and more communist), we have a city, where potassium salt is mined. It's called "Soligorsk". Soli and gorsk are Russian for salts and city, together making something like "Salt town". All Russian cs go players are from here

Patrick Hanft : What a great twist and deep second layer your video has here. I think it is a great observation and shows a lot of empathy to appreciate the perspective of those who lived and worked there and what the history of their town means to them. Great video, thank you!

hens0w : I don't get why everone is insistant on name changes so often. History need not be forgot so easly

BangersAndMash98 : Could be worse, in Ontario, there's a town named "Swastika"

Jmc76 : As a Québécois, if you tell me "Asbestos", I think of the town, not the english name for the mineral called «amiante». I don't think the name will ever change.

Mandy B : My nextdoor neighbour died of "the dust" (pneumoconiosis) when I and his youngest son were 6, he wasn't the only one. Yet our village and the neighbouring ones mourned the death of the mines. I feel for the people of Asbestos - I get it. It's not easy for someone brought up outside a similar situation. Thanks for your sympathetic report, I'll bet they will appreciate it too.

Daniel : Reminds me of Rare Earth's video The People Who Hate Us, but instead of chasing after you with a broom they're politely declining interviews

KayPeaThree 3 : There’s another town called asbest, in Eastern Europe or Russia,after the asbestos mine which is still active I think.

The Cheaterman : It's interesting how they seem to call it Asbestos, or use the mineral name, instead of the French "Amiante". It could be a regional thing - many of the words and expressions used by Québécois are inspired by English. Great video in any case, and interesting point about why we should maybe stop talking about it altogether and let the locals do their grievance.

Bob Emmerson : Nice Archive clips from "Jam" Handy. He sounds dammed handy.

Falney : Depending on the application, asbestos is still a fantastic resource. I believe that both the US and British armies respectively still use it

12799MaDeuce : Aside from the "tourism" attention [for lack of a better term] , and the fact that it's such a huge part of their history, I think one could also argue that keeping the town's name and thus garnering attention helps keep alive the memory of this massive industrial f-up. We have a nasty habit of forgetting stuff like that.

Alexandre Simoneau : It's also called "Amiante" here, so the name doesn't ring a bell as bas as everywhere.

Chad Mojito : Amusingly, the town motto is "To Live Healthy"

Angry Crafters : "All these science spheres are made of asbestos, by the way. Keeps out the rats. Let us know if you feel a shortness of breath, a persistent dry cough or your heart stopping. Because that's not part of the test. That's asbestos." "Good news is, the lab boys say the symptoms of asbestos poisoning show a median latency of forty-four point six years, so if you're thirty or older, you're laughing. Worst case scenario, you miss out on a few rounds of canasta, plus you forwarded the cause of science by three centuries. I punch those numbers into my calculator, it makes a happy face." -Cave Johnson (from the wiki)

Lhorez : If you want another oddly named town you should go east a bit to Dildo Newfoundland. (It’s named after a boat.) It’s also about an hour’s drive to Conception Bay according to Google maps which I find hard to believe because when I drove my wife from Dildo to Conception it well … took a lot longer than an hour.

Kachow : I've lived and Quebec all my life, and this just goes to show that even if you know a place really well, you can learn something new everyday

Luciano Lizana : I really love how that ''O'' in Asbestos is like a happy rainbow

Quietsamurai98 : "So, where are you from?" "Er..."

Hario338 : You could claim compensation for mesothelioma.

Pierre Plante : A big "thank you" for this one... for us, the name of the place represent the people not the mine itself. I live in Drummondville, a city not very far from the town and we all know (I think) at leat one person in the place and respect the hard work they had to make when the mine was closed...as I see they are doing quite well.

wolfbd5950 : Just how happy were you that you could use footage from Jam Handy Productions?

Sam Shelton : Hey wait, I just watched a video on a town called Asbestos in Russia! What a coincidence!

Toboto : I've lived in Québec all my life and I've heard of Asbestos (my grandfather worked there when he was young). It's not a really weird concept for us since: 1. Asbestos in french is "de l'amiante." 2. When we find out what asbestos means we react this way: "Wow, they named a mineral after a city" and not the other way around. We learn about the city before we learn about the concept of asbestos. + why would anyone change a city's name because its named after a mineral? Québec is filled with weird town names like "Thetford Mines" or "Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!" and that's how we get to love the province!

Matt Hunter : It's history damn it, why should they change the name?

Filip Wieland : I see a Jam Handy production there

MaybeGreat : I wonder what the town uses for insulation...

Harry Todhunter : Is this that new song by The Jam?

Mark Andrews : Actually, there are a lot of different minerals which can form asbestos fibers. Some are much more deadly than others. I believe at that mine, the asbestos forming mineral was chrysotile. It isn't good for you but certainly not the worst of the bunch.

Alexandre Simoneau : Hey Tom! You where just 50km away from here! Would have love to meet you but I understand you have a tight schedule. Have fun on the West coast!

linkh200 : When doing some asbestos training, the teacher asked "what's the best way for you to remove asbestos? ... Asbestos you can!" That was one of the most entertaining classes I had attended.

Enthused Norseman : On the other hand, the town of Hell in Norway is a really nice place!

LazerLord10 : Yeah, my highschool had asbestos ceiling tiles. They didn't help much with insulation as it got up to 85F regularly inside, but yeah. That building is gone now.

TheObsidianX : We’ve also got uranium city, Saskatchewan but it’s practically abandoned since the mines there closed. For some reason it’s visible on a lot of world maps despite being a small city.

Joseph Bleasdale : "Pour y vivre en santé" 😂😂😂

id104335409 : A lot of people are born under the sign of Cancer. Nobody is changing that....

Dylan Milne : Asbestos is much maligned but it certainly was a wonder material of it's time. I didn't know it was actually a mined mineral but figured the video would be about a town that was used in the production of it. I'm sure it's probably saved many lives - however much it had terrible effects on breathing it served its purpose to protect people from other dangers - when you look at disasters like Grenfell you can really see the effect that combustible insulation has in helping fire spread more rapidly. The town paid for that name with their own health, I find it strange anybody would laugh at it.

Steve W : Informative, compassionate, and insightful 👍🏼

Shaughn Chan : I never fail to be taken in by how you manage to communicate your own personal feelings about this place wordlessly yet so effectively. Keep up the good work Tom, your channel is amazing.

Kristian : Great video! I think you should also have mentioned that they are french speakers, and in french Asbestos is "Amiante" which is also propably a reason why for them it's not alarming. I went there as a kid and it's only much later i would learn about the word asbestos.

Scott Pilgrim vs Za Warudo : Yo, dude, I've actually gone to Band Camp here for eight years in a row. I even have commemorative sweaters of the camp.

Peter Rabitt : Hearing about the kids writing their names in asbestos dust, reminds me of stories my great-grandfather used to tell me about him and the other kids being sprayed from head to toe with the pesticide DDT, to delouse them before the start of the school year.