Although it may be unknown to many, the dangers of using asbestos were documented well before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulated its production and use. In fact, documents show that railroad companies knew as far back as the 1930s that asbestos was dangerous to health and could cause life-threatening diseases.
Even further back in the 1800s, doctors linked lung diseases to prolonged asbestos exposure in factories. Yet, when companies that relied on the hazardous set of minerals became aware of its dangers, many did nothing to prevent their workers from developing fatal diseases.
A number of businesses carefully hid any information that would alert employees, contractors, and others that they were being put in danger.
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The Great Cover-ups
In 1928, the medical term asbestosis was coined by physicians as a condition affecting the lungs after extensive asbestos exposure. Not long after, an aggregation of businesses that used asbestos and asbestos-containing products began talking internally about its use and its detrimental effects.
Evan after consultations and group meetings, the coverups continued. In addition, an overflow of companies were found to have altered the insurance documentations that warned of the pitfalls of asbestos exposure. Even those these companies hid the evidence and knew of the inherent risks, many didn’t even reduce the production and use of asbestos in the slightest bit.
However, by the 1930s, victims started filing lawsuits against their employers after being diagnosed with asbestosis. Companies began settling the lawsuits on a condition that no more lawsuits would come about regarding asbestos.
After the initial asbestos lawsuits, employees underwent health screenings at the consent of their employers. It has been documented that many employers once again covered up the evidence by altering the health study results.
However, it didn’t go unnoticed by physicians, who then were discovering that not only did asbestos cause lung issues and difficulty with breathing, but also lung cancer. When these companies became aware of the findings, more extensive plans of hiding evidence followed. For example, supervisors and managers were told to never talk of the hidden dangers of asbestos to employees.
In 1943, after a six-year study and research on asbestos, Dr. LeRoy Gardner of the Saranac Laboratory in New York, provided the Johns-Manville Corporation the detailed results of his research. Asbestos was found likely to be carcinogenic, meaning that the mineral is extremely dangerous.
At the Johns-Manville Corporation’s request, none of the findings were made public, nor available to any of the workers that were employed at Johns-Manville. In addition, the asbestos industry ensured that Dr. Gardner’s results were suppressed by altering and creating a false report.
More Warnings Issued
It wasn’t until 1964 that asbestos was pinned officially as one of the causes of lung cancer, asbestosis, and malignant mesothelioma. Although this information was backed by the American Medical Association, companies still continued to alter and hide the information. I
In other cases, company owners made blatant statements promoting asbestos. Records show that in 1966, the director of purchasing at Bendix, an asbestos manufacturing company, stated, “If you have enjoyed a good life while working with asbestos, why not die from it?”
By 1971, it had already been over 40 years since the first asbestos-related lawsuits. With mass coverups including companies persuading publications not to write about the dangers of asbestos, it took entirely too long for asbestos to be recognized as a dangerous product.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) finally took notice and regulated the use of asbestos. At first, OSHA mandated an emergency temporary standard (ETS) for exposure to asbestos dust in December of 1974. Shortly after, the temporary standard became a permanent standard.
Ultimately, the details regarding the dangers of asbestos became widespread, and it became obvious that many businesses had been suppressing this information for decades.
The dangers of asbestos became so prevalent that in 1979, the EPA announced the consideration of regulating asbestos under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Yet, after a stampede of protests stating that too many people would be out of a job, the EPA decided not to pursue the regulations.
Nonetheless, after a 10-year study on the dangers of asbestos and how it affects humans, the EPA finally banned the use of all asbestos in 1989. Members of the asbestos industry, however, appealed the ban, and unfortunately, they won.
Consequently, although asbestos can still be used, there are a plethora of mandated rules regarding an employee’s exposure as well as several products, building, and items it can never be used on.
Reasons for Industry Cover-ups
Although it was established that asbestos was dangerous decades before the EPA’s regulation, companies, as previously mentioned, continued to stifle any information regarding the hazards of the mineral. Even after physicians, scientists, and even asbestos companies provided details of the dangers after conducting studies, companies still wouldn’t scale back on asbestos usage or inform workers of the dangers.
The reason behind the great cover-ups simply comes down to money. If the production of and the use of asbestos was eliminated, many companies would lose the fortune they built.
In another documented statement, when an executive of a corporation that used asbestos was asked if he would let his workers die if it meant continuing to use the mineral, he replied, “Yes. We save a lot of money that way.”
In other words, the profits of the businesses that used asbestos was more important than the lives of the people who helped these businesses survive.
Getting Legal Help for Asbestos Exposure
Keep in mind that you may be eligible for considerable compensation if you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis, or asbestos-related cancer. Don’t forget to fill out our form to get our free Financial Compensation Packet, filled with information on the experienced asbestos and mesothelioma attorneys in your area.
Page Reviewed and Edited by Mesothelioma Attorney Paul Danziger
Paul Danziger grew up in Houston, Texas and earned a law degree from Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago. For over 25 years years he has focused on representing mesothelioma cancer victims and others hurt by asbestos exposure. Paul and his law firm have represented thousands of people diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer, recovering significant compensation for injured clients. Every client is extremely important to Paul and he will take every call from clients who want to speak with him. Paul and his law firm handle mesothelioma cases throughout the United States.
- “Fatal Deception: The Terrifying True Story of How Asbestos is Killing America,” Simon & Schuster, 2003.
- “HushHush: The Dark Secrets of Scientific Research,” Quintet Publishing Limited, 2003.