Though death certificates have help record death tolls, there is still no way to fully account for how many Americans have died as the result of asbestos exposure. It’s not possible to accurately estimate the number of asbestos-related deaths that occurred when asbestos was prominently used in all types of American workplaces, public buildings and private homes. And it’s equally difficult to predict how many more will die from diseases caused by exposure to products with asbestos-containing materials.
More than 27 million Americans were exposed to lethal asbestos fibers since the “miracle material” became popular in the late 1800s.
Industries prized asbestos for its insulation and fireproofing value. Asbestos made products strong, durable and lightweight. Further, asbestos was cheap, and early manufacturers initially thought it was safe to handle. They were wrong about asbestos safety, and many manufacturers and suppliers knew it. However, negligent companies put profits before people and hid information proving how deadly long-term asbestos exposure would be.
Irresponsible and careless actions by unscrupulous asbestos manufacturers, distributors and employers directly caused countless deaths of American workers. Secondary asbestos exposure also resulted in deaths of their family members and coworkers cross-contaminated by lethal asbestos materials. Peak asbestos use stopped in the 1980s. That was primarily due to public information and the beginning of mass litigation. Many asbestos-related legal actions were for wrongful death lawsuits.