Asbestos Manufacturing, Exposure & Abatement History
Information from an Experienced New York Asbestos Lawyer
Asbestos is the generic classification for six silicate minerals with fire retardant properties. People and asbestos share a long and turbulent relationship. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness, please contact The Williams Law Firm, P.C. today. Led by our founding New York asbestos attorney, our team has recovered millions of dollars for our clients and is prepared to walk you through your legal options.
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Asbestos Throughout History
One of the first known texts to reference asbestos was an ancient geological study by Theophrastus, a student of Aristotle. He described a fibrous stone that failed to deteriorate when set to flame. Greece later became home to the first asbestos quarry.
People quickly figured out how to weave asbestos threads into an assortment of durable wares. By the first century A.D., doctors were using handkerchiefs made with asbestos because the cloth could be purified using fire and then used again. Other early asbestos fabrications included clothing, house wares, theater curtains and flame-proof suits. By the Age of Discovery, European scientists and manufacturers had become fixated with asbestos and its myriad practical applications.
Asbestos Dangers Illuminated
It may be tempting to blame the one-time mainstream use of asbestos on naiveté. However, historians began noting its potential dangers going back nearly as far as the use of asbestos itself. Consider that the ancient Roman politician and author Pliny the Younger's writings describe respiratory illness among slaves who worked in asbestos mines.
In fact, the rise of asbestos manufacturing happened concurrently with an uptick in the reported cases of asbestos-related illness. Doctors began to chronicle an increase in lung problems and related fatalities in asbestos mining towns around the turn of the twentieth century.
By 1924, the death of British textile factory worker Nellie Kershaw marked the first instance in which workplace or job site asbestos exposure was directly linked to lethal pulmonary disease.
Asbestos Manufacturing Milestones
Despite the signs that asbestos could cause respiratory issues, it continued to be an in-demand material for decades. Here are other notable dates in the history of asbestos manufacturing and scientific discovery:
- 1828: The United States issued the first known patent for an asbestos product, steam engine insulation.
- 1834: The United Kingdom issued its first patent for the use of asbestos in safes. British entrepreneurs followed up that invention with asbestos machine lubricant, asbestos-lined fire boxes, and asbestos electrical wiring insulation.
- 1868: The United States issued the first patent for asbestos roofing products.
- 1871: Glasgow became home to the Patent Asbestos Manufacturing Company. Industrial mining of the material began soon thereafter.
- 1906: British historians mark the first documented death from asbestos-related illness.
- 1930: British pathologist Dr. William Edmund Cooke authored the British Parliament-commissioned report, "Occurrence of Pulmonary Fibrosis and Other Pulmonary Affections in Asbestos Workers." It sparked a global shift in asbestos regulation and manufacturing.
- 1931: The first use of the term mesothelioma occurred in asbestos-related medical articles.
By the turn of the 20th century, asbestos was part of myriad commercial products. Some of the most common among them included:
- Vinyl flooring and adhesives
- Roofing tars, siding, felts and shingles
- Popcorn ceilings
- Fire-resistant protective gear
- Industrial and marine gaskets
- Various types of insulation
- HVAC connectors
- Asbestos and Disease
Most industrialized nations failed to pass substantive laws regulating the use of asbestos until very late in the twentieth century. As recently as 1989, a U.S. federal court overturned what would have been a national asbestos ban and phase-out plan. In the meantime, millions of people worldwide have been exposed to asbestos, which is the sole cause of the rare mesothelioma cancer diagnosis.
Seek the Justice You Deserve
To protect their own bottom lines, many companies across numerous industries ignored, hid, or neglected their own asbestos issues, putting employees, customers, and the public at risk. If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, then our firm is ready to help you hold these companies accountable.
Start exploring your options today. Fill out our online form to request a free case evaluation with our trusted New York asbestos attorney.