As those involved in laying brick and working with stone as a building material, masonry workers were sometimes exposed to asbestos. The chrysotile variety was often used in mortar mixes as well as bricks themselves prior to the 1970s. Because asbestos materials were most often used in places where high heat posed an industrial hazard, those masonry workers involved in the construction of blast furnaces, fire kilns and even pizza ovens are particularly at risk.
Heat in an industrial context means temperatures ranging from 1500 to over 3200 degrees Fahrenheit (800 to 1800 C). Under these temperatures, regular brick has a strong tendency to fracture. The mortar used in most average situations can actually explode due to air pockets that become trapped inside. For this reason, special “fire bricks” containing asbestos and high-temperature mortar were often used in industrial situations. It is not unusual to find such asbestos-containing fire bricks in the fireplaces of residential structures built prior to 1980 as well.
From 1963 until 1985, Union Carbide – a subsidiary of Dow Chemical – marketed asbestos products containing what they called “calidria,” named for the Central California town where it was mined. As it turned out, “calidria” was essentially a form of chrysotile.
There is a great deal of controversy over whether or not chrysotile fibers are actually carcinogenic, although it is generally agreed that such fibers are harmful to respiratory health. In 2005, a Swiss toxicologist, David M. Bernstein, wrote in the journal Inhalation Toxicology that chrysotile was actually less “biopersistent” than other types of asbestos, meaning that the fibers were either expelled or broke down inside the lungs. These claims were based on studies of laboratory rats. Reports of additional studies by Bernstein on this topic have been published online by the Chrysotile Institute as well as North American Insulation Manufacturer’s Association.
The other report was the result of research performed at the Mount Sinai Hospital School of Medicine in 1996. The research team found that calidra chrysotile fibers to be mutagenic, capable of causing healthy cells to become malignant, as is the case in asbestos cancers such as malignant mesothelioma.
Chrysotile and amphibole asbestos fibers differ only in degree; either kind can ultimately kill a person. A medical study of cement plant workers in Louisiana showed that those who worked at plants where amphibole asbestos was used suffered a slightly higher rate of cancer (29 out of 1,000) than those working at plants where chrysotile asbestos was the primary ingredient (22 out of 1,000).
How Could This Happen?
Those who owned and operated the large asbestos companies – W.R. Grace, Raysbestos, Johns-Manville, and others – were aware of the health risks of asbestos decades ago. Ironically, it was the Raysbestos Corporation that actually paid to have studies done, the results of which firmly demonstrated the connection between asbestos fibers and respiratory diseases like asbestosis and mesothelioma. Instead of making the information publicly available however, the CEO of Raysbestos in 1940, Sumner Simpson, contacted the management of rival Johns-Manville; it was agreed to keep health information secret.
Nearly forty years later, correspondence between Simpson and Johns-Manville corporate officers was discovered in an office closet at Raysbestos headquarters. The “Sumner Simpson Papers” are what opened the proverbial floodgates to all the litigation that has taken place since.
Why An “Asbestos” Lawyer?
Because of (A) the long latency period of mesothelioma and (B) the fact that many asbestos companies have gone out of business and/or have been taken over by other corporations (which in turn were often acquired by other, larger corporations), determining liability is tricky. In fact, asbestos law has for all practical purposes become a sub-specialty in the field of litigation.
A mesothelioma lawyer has experience in the specific, often complex issues surrounding such claims. Drawing on well over thirty years of case law and precedent as well prior research, such a lawyer is the best qualified to ensure that an asbestos victim receives adequate compensation from those whose willful negligence cause his or her illness.