History of Asbestos
Asbestos Use Pre-1900
The Ancient Greeks gave asbestos (inextinguishable
) its name. As well as naming it the Greeks also noticed its negative effects - for example, slave who wove asbestos items such as napkins developing a sickness of the lungs - but, like their more modern counterparts also chose to ignore those harmful effects.
Though asbestos use waned and rose over time it more extensive use occured from the 18th Century with an even wider popularity nearer the start of the 20th Century with its growing use in boilers, steam pipes, turbines, ovens and other heat producing items.
Asbestos Use Post-1900
Well documented records of the association between asbestos and death can be found from the start of the last century. A 1900 post-mortem examination in London on a man in his early thirties revealed traces of asbestos in his lungs. The man was the last survivor of ten men who worked together at an asbestos textile factory and after 14 years work there the doctor declared the man had died from his occupation.
A French study of 1906 stated there a higher than normal mortality rate among asbestos workers and recoomended changes in the workplace to recuce exposure to asbestos dust.
US studies in 1917 and 1918 also came to the same conculsion that people working with asbestos were dying far younger than they should be.
Asbestosis (scarring of the lung manifested by interstitial fibrosis and causing shortness of breath) was first diagnosed in England in 1924. A dodctor used this term to describe the cause of death of a woman in her early thirties who had worked with asbestos from the age of thirteen. This verdict led to a study of English asbestos workers where it was found that a quarter of those tested had signs of asbestos-related lung disease. As a consequence, England subsequently passed laws to improve ventilation and add asbestosis to the list compensable work-related disease.
Although the first US workmen's compensation disability claim for asbestosis was filed in 1927 it would take a further three years for the first death in the US to be attributed to asbestos lung disease with a further year until it was regulated to be compensable work-related disease.
In 1933 the Johns-Manville Corporation paid $30,000 to settle claims by eleven people affected by asbestosis. As part of that settlment the attorney for the plaintiffs was compelled to put in writing that he would not be associated with any other actions against Johns-Manville.
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