Unlike many of its doomed chemical contemporaries, asbestos is not a product of modern technology. Its use predates history, and the recognition of health hazards associated with asbestos is recorded in writings from the first century.
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What’s the problem?
Asbestos has been used for more than 2,000 years. It was named by the Ancient Greeks, its name meaning “inextinguishable.” The Greeks used asbestos for the wicks of the eternal flames of the vestal virgins, as the funeral dress for the cremation of kings, and as napkins.
Asbestos was used marginally through the 1700s, but did not become popular until the Industrial Revolution during the late 1800s. It then began to be used as insulation for steam pipes, turbines, boilers, kilns, ovens, and other high-temperature products. Ancient observations of the health risks of asbestos were either forgotten or ignored.
At the turn of the twentieth century, researchers began to notice a large number of deaths and lung problems in asbestos mining towns. In the 1930s major medical journals began to publish articles that linked asbestos to cancer. Despite the fact that many materials, such as fiberglass insulation, were created to replace asbestos, companies that used asbestos ignored the safer alternatives. The conduct of the asbestos companies is especially egregious, however, because the victims were largely exploited workers who were unaware of the serious health risks they were exposed to on a daily basis.
When the use of asbestos was at its highest – probably in the 1940s to the early 1970s – an estimated 3,000 products made use of its unique properties. You could find asbestos in hair dryers, irons and ironing board covers, toasters, coffee pots, and electric blankets. Because asbestos is also found in vermiculite or talc, trace amounts could also be detected in cosmetics and powders, as well as in fertilizer and potting soils.
Use of asbestos stabilized after 1976 (the year of peak production), decreasing only in the late 1980s as its associated health risks became a matter of increasing public concern. Although in the USA the last domestic mine closed in 2002, asbestos is still imported here (6000 metric tons in 2003), mostly from Canada. Asbestos (predominantly chrysotile) is still widely mined outside the USA, especially in Russia (39%), Canada (18%), China (14%), Brazil (9%), Kazakhstan (7%), and Zimbabwe (6%).
Do I have a Mesothelioma Lawsuit?
The Toxic Tort Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus exclusively on the representation of plaintiffs in asbestos-related mesothelioma lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently accepting new cases in all 50 states.