The History Of Asbestos

If you've been diagnosed with mesothelioma, it is not your fault. The individuals responsible are the employers, business owners and manufacturers who knew the dangers of asbestos, but kept quiet.

At Richardson, Patrick, Westbrook & Brickman, we don't think companies should ever put profits over people. That is why our lawyers have dedicated their careers to fighting for asbestos exposure victims and their families. We will help you seek justice and compensation for the harm you suffered. Call us today at 866-594-8765 to discuss your situation and your rights in a free consultation.

We know you have many questions about asbestos and your disease. We are here to help you find answers and seek justice.

Below is a brief description of the history and uses of asbestos, as well as information about the hazards and laws in place today to protect the public. But the bottom line is this:

  • Millions of people have been exposed to asbestos.
  • The asbestos industry knew asbestos was a carcinogen, but did little or nothing to stop the use of it until ordered to do so.
  • Laws now ban and strictly regulate the use and proper disposal of asbestos; however, asbestos is still in many old buildings and homes throughout the U.S.

What Is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fiber that has been mined for thousands of years. Its use goes back to ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. It was used in ancient times to increase clothing durability, as a fire retardant in pottery and to embalm the pharaohs, among other things. The word "asbestos" comes from the Greek word meaning "inextinguishable" or "indestructible."

There are two asbestos families: amphibole and serpentine asbestos. The amphibole family includes crocidolite (blue asbestos), amosite (brown asbestos), tremolite, anthophyllite and actinolite. Amphibole asbestos fibers are straight, needle-like fibers. The serpentine family is made up solely of chrysotile (white asbestos), but chrysotile asbestos fibers are often contaminated with tremolite fibers. Serpentine asbestos fibers are wavy or curly fibers. Chrysotile, amosite and crocidolite asbestos are the three main forms of asbestos used commercially.

By The 20th Century, Asbestos Was Everywhere

In the 19th and 20th centuries, asbestos became widely used in the United States. It solved many heat and temperature issues and was used to insulate boilers, fireboxes, steam and other piping systems, turbines and locomotives, ovens and furnaces. Asbestos was also used to insulate equipment and piping components such as valves, steam traps, evaporators and pumps. It was used in gaskets, packing and other sealing products.

Asbestos was also used in drywall joint compounds, caulking, floor tiles, roofing products, asbestos cement siding and numerous other construction products. It was used in brake and clutch linings by the automotive industry. In the 20th century, more than 30 million tons of asbestos were used in the U.S. alone. In addition to industrial, maritime, construction and automotive products, asbestos was used in household appliances such as handheld hair dryers, ironing boards and textiles. In short, it was almost everywhere.

Read more about common products containing asbestos.

The Hazards Were Known And Nothing Was Done

The primary danger posed by asbestos exposure is breathing asbestos fibers into the lungs. Asbestos dust is easily inhaled into the lungs because asbestos fibers are small, brittle and aerodynamic. Once inhaled, some asbestos fibers remain in the body forever. Over long periods of time, inhaled asbestos fibers can cause life-threatening and fatal diseases, including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.

The first cases of asbestos-related illnesses were diagnosed in 1897. A Vienna doctor attributed pulmonary problems and emaciation to the inhalation of asbestos dust. The first reported case of an asbestos-related death was in 1906. An autopsy of an asbestos worker showed lung fibrosis. By the 1930s, researchers realized that if workers could see dust from asbestos products in the air, they were being exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos. In the following decades, numerous articles and studies appeared in medical, scientific and industry publications advising of the health hazards posed by asbestos. To this day, no safe level of exposure to asbestos has been determined. Mesothelioma can result even from remote and infrequent exposure to asbestos.

Asbestos continued to be used commercially for many years after its carcinogenic traits were known. Despite knowledge about the serious health hazards of asbestos and the availability of nonhazardous substitutes, asbestos companies concealed and misrepresented this information while promoting, using and profiting from the use of asbestos in their products. Manufacturers also refused to place warnings on their products, despite the known health risks.

The Federal Government Develops Laws

After public outcry over the dangers posed by the wide use of asbestos, the federal government, in the 1960s and 1970s, began to implement laws and regulations governing the use, maintenance and disposal of asbestos and asbestos products and required warnings on many such products.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) began regulating the permissible workplace exposures of workers in the United States in 1971. OSHA also mandates the protections that must be provided to those whose work may expose them to asbestos. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) deals with the inspection and testing of buildings containing asbestos and the proper disposal of asbestos, among other things.

However, none of these laws or regulations dictates compensation for those injured by asbestos. Compensation for victims must be sought through the civil justice system.

Contact Us For More Information

At RPWB, our attorneys have represented asbestos exposure victims throughout the U.S. since the 1970s. We understand what you are going through, and we want to be here as your resource and your guide. To learn more about your legal rights, please contact our firm at 866-594-8765. We have offices in Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Aiken, Columbia and Barnwell, South Carolina, as well as an office in Edwardsville, Illinois.

Consultations are always free and we operate on a contingency fee basis, meaning you owe us nothing unless we recover for you through settlement or verdict.