The Occupational Hazards of Asbestos Exposure: A History, and a Cover-up

Decades after the toxicity of asbestos has become common knowledge, this mineral is still taking lives. In fact, in the United Kingdom, around 13 people a day die from asbestos exposure, almost double the amount of people who die in car accidents in the U.K. The most difficult part about occupational asbestos exposure is the fact that for years the asbestos industry and other commercial actors successfully covered up the extremely dangerous nature of exposure.

Why Asbestos Use Was So Prevalent

Asbestos are naturally occurring minerals created out of small fibrous crystals. Asbestos has been used for years because it can be mixed with other materials in order to create a sort of super-fiber that is heat-resistant, lightweight and extremely strong. During the 19th century, large scale mining of asbestos began in U.S, Canada and Italy. By the 20th century asbestos was being commercially produced worldwide for use in building materials including insulation for both ships and buildings, concrete, brick, cement, tiles and pipes. Similarly, asbestos fibers played a key role in the creation of car products/parts, cigarette filters, mattresses and protective clothing. While billions of asbestos fibers can be inhaled on a daily basis without immediate effect, the long term consequences of such exposure are often deadly. Asbestos exposure has been proven to cause mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis and other health diseases that attack the lungs.

The Numerous Asbestos Toxicity Cover-ups

In 1924, the death of Nellie Kershaw, a British yarn spinner, was the first death that was officially attributed to occupational exposure to asbestos. In 1924, Kershaw received the fatal diagnosis of “asbestos poisoning.” The company she was employed with refused to compensate her for her illness, nor were they willing to pay for her subsequent funeral expenses. The inaction of Kershaw’s employers represents a trend seen time and time again in the complicated history of asbestos.

For over 80 years high ranking figures of the asbestos industry have had ample evidence about the health issues caused by asbestos exposure, and these executive have done everything in their power to conceal such findings. In 1927, Doctor Ian Grieve produced a detailed study outlining the inevitability of asbestosis diagnosis in employees of the J.W. Roberts asbestos textile plant. In response to this and other studies several U.S. asbestos companies commissioned a study regarding the occupational hazards of asbestos exposure for workers at five different textiles. The results, of this study, which were conveniently never published, were startling. It was found that only 3 out of the 18 women exposed were asbestosis free, and only 17 of 108 men workers were asbestosis free.

Throughout history similar studies have proven the extreme and life threatening occupational hazards of asbestos inhalation. But for decades, the asbestos industry has done everything in its power to cover up such findings. In the 1940s, the asbestos industry backed studies by the New York Saranac Laboratory. In their studies that found pulmonary cancer in 80 percent of mice who inhaled asbestos, but of course this study was not published either. In fact throughout the 1940s and 1950s, an outstanding amount of asbestos miners died, and their lungs were often autopsied in secret and sent to the Saranac Laboratory, where it was proven that asbestos fiber inhalation caused cancer.

As more evidence throughout the 1950s and onward exposed the deadly effects of asbestos exposure the business was still booming. The fact the those most exposed to asbestos were typically uneducated, working class industrial workers makes the cover-up even more repugnant. In fact while more evidence about the deadly effects of asbestos exposure came out during the 1960s and 1980s, this time period was also when asbestos production was at its highest. Sadly, 80 percent of worldwide production was during this time period, which was ironically when it finally became public knowledge the occupational asbestos exposure was responsible for asbestosis, mesothelioma and other lung cancers and complications.

Concerned about occupational asbestos exposure? Pick up the phone and contact an asbestos exposure attorney today.

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