Mesothelioma - Asbestos Companies
Asbestos use was prevalent prior to the late 1970s. When the risks of asbestos became known, asbestos manufacturers still knowingly put consumers and workers in danger.
- Asbestos production peaked in the early 1970s.
- Asbestos companies continued production, despite knowledge of the risks.
- Cases of mesothelioma and other asbestos illnesses rose after the 1970s.
- Asbestos victims took legal action against asbestos companies for wrongful exposure.
Asbestos companies thrived throughout the mid-1900s into the early 1970s as the mineral was used widely throughout over 3,000 different products. Asbestos manufacturers continued to benefit from the profits of asbestos products, despite knowing the risks of asbestos exposure, such as the development of serious illnesses like malignant mesothelioma, asbestosis and asbestos cancer. Asbestos companies responsible for exposure have faced legal action throughout the past few decades as asbestos victims exercise their rights, taking action against wrongful exposure.
History of Asbestos Manufacturing
Asbestos is a natural mineral that has been around for thousands of years. However, the asbestos industry didn’t begin growing until the late 1800s at the start of the Industrial Revolution. Powered machinery and steam power became popular at this time, and asbestos was the seemingly perfect solution for temperature control. The material was able to withstand fire, heat and electrical damage, while also offering strength. As a result, asbestos was used frequently throughout steam pipes, turbines, ovens and other production components, especially those that faced high temperatures and friction.
The demand for asbestos continued to grow, as it was used to create many different asbestos products. When World War II began, the material took over the shipping industry, becoming a primary component in ship construction, while also becoming prevalent in the automobile and construction industries. Asbestos use continued to rise, reaching peak use in the early 1970s.
While asbestos was in part popular based on its heat-resistance, fireproofing and other qualities, it was also cheap and accessible. The mineral is found naturally around the world and can be mined. Asbestos mines were popular at this time, employing mostly men, but also affecting women and children. By the 1920s, an estimated 109,000 tons of asbestos were being mined each year. Asbestos mines not only affected those that were performing the labor, but also those that lived nearby as fibers were disturbed, polluting the air.Asbestos Companies and Wrongful Exposure
Asbestos companies became very wealthy as demand increased. In January of 1906, Johns-Manville utilized a full-page advertisement in The Saturday Evening Post that stated how asbestos “serves more people in more ways than any institution of its kind in the world…And while the asbestos industry is comparatively undeveloped, it must be related as one of the great industries of the world.”
Asbestos use grew, asbestos manufacturers’ profits grew, and by the 1970s, more than 700,000 tons of asbestos were being consumed in the United States, annually.
However, as asbestos use increased, so did health problems related to the carcinogen, and evidence emerged that asbestos companies knew about the deadly nature of asbestos. Manufacturers like Johns-Manville were also found to have concealed the information to make sure workers and consumers were unaware of the hazards of occupational exposure. Companies wanted to continue to profit from mining, selling and manufacturing asbestos, so they covered up their knowledge of the risks.
Awareness of the risks of asbestos exposure started to emerge in the early 1900s. Asbestos miners and factory workers began reporting lung sickness and pulmonary issues as a result of working with the material. Although cases of pleural tumors were seen before 1900, mesothelioma was not recognized until around 1909 with a method of diagnosis emerging in 1931. Mesothelioma, asbestos, asbestos cancer, lung cancer and other asbestos illnesses all began to grow as a result of occupational exposure and of dealing with asbestos products.
As employees and consumers recognized that their health issues were linked to working with the carcinogen, the first asbestos claims began to emerge. In 1927, the first employee asbestos injury claim was made, and in 1929 the first lawsuit against an asbestos manufacturer was filed. However, asbestos manufacturing and use continued throughout the next few decades.
By 1935 asbestos was clearly connected to lung cancer diagnoses, and in 1955 researchers proved that those exposed to asbestos for longer durations were more likely to contract cancer. Lung cancer had many other known causes and risk factors, and mesothelioma was still very rare, so concerns about asbestos-related diseases still went largely overlooked.
However, by the 1970s, litigation was growing as more and more victims were taking action against employers and asbestos manufacturers, demanding compensation for the development of asbestos-related illnesses as a result of occupational exposure.Lawsuits Against Asbestos Manufacturers
Around 950 asbestos cases were filed in federal courts during the 1970s with about twice as many cases being filed in state courts. Asbestosis, mesothelioma and other asbestos cancers can take years to develop after the time of exposure. For example, mesothelioma has a long latency period of 10 – 50 years, meaning victims may not see symptoms for decades after their interaction with asbestos. As a result, cases began to skyrocket as time went on. Between 1980 and 1984, 10,000 asbestos cases were filed in federal courts, causing many courts to admit that they were not able to handle them.
Within these lawsuits, victims began to sue asbestos manufacturers for exposing them to the carcinogen, which ultimately led to the diagnosis of an asbestos-related disease. Victims and loved ones sued to gain compensation for their pain and suffering, to help pay for medical bills and accommodate for loss of work.
Asbestos production began to slow down and many U.S. manufacturers went bankrupt as they paid out mesothelioma settlements or claims that went to court. Johns-Manville, for example, filed for bankruptcy in 1982 and in 1988 founded the Manville Personal Injury Settlement Trust. Many asbestos companies were required to set up asbestos trust funds to pay out current and future claims.Laws and Regulations Affecting Asbestos Companies
Due to the growing number of asbestos cases hitting federal and state courts, laws and regulations began to be put into place in an attempt to lessen the risks and impact of asbestos exposure. Amendments, additions, changes and new regulations continue to emerge today as asbestos continues to be a problem and not completely banned within the United States.