In the later part of the 19th century, there were manufacturers in the United States who were mining and manufacturing products that contained large amounts of asbestos. The startling thing about this was that these companies who were actively producing products with asbestos in them were aware of and concealed the information of the dangerous effects that it could have on the human body. The news of their awareness was not discovered until at least a century later when consumers had already been exposed.
The uses for asbestos only rose as we entered the twentieth century, as it had become a prevalent material in shipbuilding, manufacturing, and construction projects. With this abundance of asbestos being used in all sorts of avenues, the effects of asbestos exposure only got worse as the decades progressed. By the 70s, we saw a rise in litigation from those with asbestos-related illnesses that led to companies going under.
These companies, having filed for bankruptcy due to their negligence, set up funds to cover the immense costs of litigation brought against them in the present and future.
This outpouring of asbestos-related illness and negligence on behalf of large manufacturers prompted over fifty nations to ban or limit the use of asbestos
Asbestos Manufacturing Through the Ages
Due to its ability to withstand heat, chemical interference, electricity, and natural durability, it was an ideal substance to add to a variety of different products and projects. It was largely used in insulation for steam engines and locomotives but was later used in automotive manufacturing, cement, and other building materials.
It was well known amongst manufacturers by the time we hit the twentieth century that the production and use of asbestos in products and buildings was harming workers and customers. But because asbestos was cheap, plentiful, and it would cost much more to change their practices, they kept what they knew to themselves.
Production continued as normal as medical studies were conducted in private on the harmful nature of asbestos in an attempt to find a way around changing practices. The knowledge of the extensive damage asbestos could do was covered up for decades.
Asbestos also played a key part in military building and manufacturing for ships and gear during WWII. It was used in the insulation for the Navy and Coast Guard ships. The manufacturers that produced asbestos-products during the war expanded their work into other products that would grace the homes of Americans for decades to come.
This naturally occurring substance was used in over three thousand different products during the height of its popularity as a material. It was used commonly in industrial projects and found its way into many buildings and homes with it added to drywall, cement, ceiling and flooring tiles, and other building materials. Now, these buildings and homes run the risk of exposure to their tenants as over time the asbestos can become damaged and the fibers can be distributed in the air during renovation projects or destruction.
It has been used in other manners as well, such as in textile production. The very protective gear that some shipyard workers, firefighters, and more, wear to protect themselves holds this toxic ingredient which renders them somewhat pointless.
Asbestos is still heavily used in automotive repair and manufacturing. It is used to line parts that are subjected to high heat like brakes as it can up their durability. Many automotive workers today are urged to wear protective gear when working on or replacing these parts so as not to risk exposure.
These occupations put so many across the world at risk, the most dangerous of which were mining the asbestos itself as well as the process of refining it. Mining and processing asbestos distributes so many asbestos particles into the air, which is highly toxic if you’re not wearing the right protective gear.
Miners and mining communities suffered heavy blows to their overall health due to the high amounts of asbestos in their air and being brought home on clothes and skin. These communities have also suffered from issues with asbestos floating into runoff and getting into their water supply.
Construction workers also put themselves at risk with the asbestos present in drywall, cement, and other products they have to interact with every day. Researchers tested a small number of patients with mesothelioma in Italy to find two hundred and fifty-one of them were exposed during construction work.
Naval and Coast Guard shipyard workers during WWII were exposed to considerable amounts of asbestos as the insulation and other elements were made up of it. The often dangerous and tight conditions made exposure easy while workers were installing these pieces.
The Fall of Asbestos
By the mid-twentieth century, researchers were beginning to conclude that the long term effects of asbestos exposure were far direr than anyone had anticipated. They started discovering the link between asbestos and several types of cancer, as well as other illnesses.
The worrying number of cases of asbestos-related diseases led to the downfall of the American asbestos industry. Once it became widespread knowledge that asbestos was toxic, The Clean Air Act was brought to fruition which limited the use of asbestos and other toxic materials. Mining asbestos became a huge no and companies began looking for alternatives.
Asbestos Usage Today
Though there were many efforts made to limit and restrict the usage of asbestos in products, it is still alive and well in many countries across the globe. The usage and manufacturing of asbestos have fallen considerably in the United States itself, but that doesn’t mean it has been entirely eradicated. It hasn’t received a hard ban as of yet, so it still has a place in manufacturing, construction, and other industries.
One of the biggest importers of asbestos is the chloralkali industry as many who are active in that industry have argued heavily against restrictions or the work it would take to completely restructure their production. There are of course alternative methods of producing chlorine, but they have yet to make the switch because of how expensive it would be to change their current methods.
The chloralkali business, however, says that the usage of asbestos diaphragm cells is imperative to chlorine production and have ultimately been successful in warding off any bans affecting their business. While risk factors are still being evaluated to see if this stands, a full assessment is still in review.
With the abject negligence from corporations who refused to implement safety precautions for workers and consumers, it was only natural that litigation would be the next step for those afflicted with asbestos-related illnesses. Just shy of three-quarters of a million people have filed suits against companies that exposed them to asbestos and have led to painful consequences.
Asbestos-related litigation is so prevalent because of this negligence, so much so that trusts have been put in place for corporations who have gone under due to these suits to still pay out settlements to those who have been affected.
Their volume and likelihood for compensation make it easy to simply push the cases forward once liability has been proven. A good personal injury lawyer can help you file a claim that can ultimately lead to compensation for you or a loved one who has been affected by the negligence of a large corporation. This compensation can help cover treatments, lost wages, and if you are filing for a loved one who has perished, even funeral expenses or backed up medical bills.
One of our goals is to connect patients who have been affected by asbestos exposure to the right lawyers. It can be isolating, suffering from mesothelioma or a related illness, and feel like you have no one on your side. Medical bills can get expensive and you might feel overwhelmed by the reality of your diagnosis.
These lawyers can help you build a case to get your bills covered and ensure you don’t have to struggle financially while you’re trying to manage your illness. They are skilled in connecting patients with the resources they need as an asbestos-related injury is entirely preventable and most companies are liable for your exposure.
Where Is Asbestos Still Prevalent?
While it is utilized in the United States on a much smaller scale than in the past, other countries use asbestos far more due to lax regulations. Countries like Russia, China, and India, are all culprits in keeping up with asbestos manufacturing and use. There have been bans on certain products imported from these countries due to the risk of exposure.
Products like these have largely been regulated by the EPA to prevent importation, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find it in products you still consume. Things like potholders, cigarette filters, and even products containing talc, are all hotbeds for asbestos exposure. Talcum powder especially is so widely used that it poses a real risk to those who use it daily.
There are still many manufacturers of talc-based products that use asbestos particles and have caused a wide array of issues for those who use them. Talc has been linked heavily to cases of mesothelioma and ovarian cancer. The talc in baby powder has caused issues for women who had it used on them when they were babies.
Largely, talc that contains asbestos has been regulated or pulled off the market, but some still contain trace amounts so it is best to be careful. It is also important to consider where your other products might come from and how to prevent exposure to these risks. If you’re unsure if something you’re consuming contains asbestos, you can always do your research and see if any recalls have been made or if the ingredients listed can be found online or on the product itself.
The only potential risk with this is that in the United States, products containing less than one percent of asbestos don’t have to declare that there is any asbestos in the product at all. It isn’t likely that using a product that contains less than one percent of asbestos will lead to an aggressive asbestos-related illness, but that depends on how regularly the product is used.
So it is important to be wary of what you consume and try to take safety precautions if you’re going to be in an environment where you might be at risk for exposure.
If you believe that you or a loved one has been exposed to asbestos and are now having problems related to an asbestos-related illness, seek out a medical professional as soon as possible. Mesothelioma and other aggressive cancers brought on by asbestos exposure can be difficult to treat, so catching it early enough is imperative. The right doctor will know how to diagnose and treat you or will be able to recommend a specialist to help you combat whatever it is.