Asbestosis and Asbestos Exposure History
Most people suffering from asbestosis were exposed to asbestos-containing materials (ACM) before the mid-1980s.
That’s when federal regulatory authorities like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) collectively worked to have ACM banned in America.
By then, it was too late for asbestosis victims. Today, many still suffer from asbestosis and eventually die from associated complications.
The history of asbestos in the United States begins with industry. Asbestos was widely used in all types of American construction projects. One of the biggest asbestos consumers was the shipbuilding industry.
Did You Know?
Mesothelioma Cancer Network Brief
The highest number of recorded asbestosis cases occurred in shipbuilding workers as well as the sailors who lived and operated vessels loaded with ACM. The U.S. Navy reported more asbestosis disease incidents per working capita than any other military or civilian segment.
Construction workers also had an extremely high rate of asbestosis. They worked with all sorts of ACM daily while building homes, schools, offices and factories. Practically every construction material made between 1920 and 1980 contained some amount of asbestos fibers. Some materials had as low as 1 percent asbestos while others were nearly pure asbestos fibers.
Asbestos was considered a miracle building material.
Asbestos was prized for being:
- Blendable with other materials
- Chemically inert
By the 1930s, health warnings about asbestos exposure were well known. Manufacturers and government officials received notice from the medical community that prolonged asbestos exposure caused benign respiratory diseases like asbestosis, pleural plaques and pleural effusion.
They also had strong evidence asbestos exposure was the sole cause of malignant mesothelioma and a contributor to about 20 percent of deadly lung cancer tumors.
Health warnings were underestimated, unheeded and ignored by many manufacturers. They put profits before people and hid this damning information.
So did many employers. That included the United States federal government, who feared that facts about asbestos-related health risks would hamper the World War II shipbuilding effort.
Sadly, millions of Americans suffered long periods of inhaling deadly asbestos fibers and unknowingly opened their lungs to asbestosis.