Mesothelioma is a lethal form of cancer, usually found in the lungs, that has inextricably been linked to asbestos fibers. In fact, the story of mesothelioma is really the story of asbestos. Asbestos fibers are tiny particles that can be inhaled by a worker who is exposed to asbestos, or a family member that is exposed to asbestos fibers brought home on clothing and shoes. One of the critical elements of this story is the fact that mesothelioma often develops twenty to fifty years after asbestos exposure.
Asbestos has been used in many types of construction materials including insulation, roofing, and pipe fittings. It was used to insulate electrical wiring; was an important component of caulking and joint compounds; was incorporated into flooring and ceiling tiles; auto brakes and engine gaskets. It has great insulating properties for both sound and temperature, is resistant to water and electricity and acts as a flame retardant.
Widespread use of asbestos took off in the 1880s. By the 1930s, medical personnel were beginning to recognize a potential link between asbestos and various respiratory problems among people who were exposed to it. A respiratory illness given the name asbestosis was diagnosed in England in 1931. During this period 30s a new form of lung cancer was detected and named mesothelioma, although it was not associated with asbestos until sometime in the 1940s.
Also in the 1930s, employees of American asbestos producer Johns Manville produced evidence of high levels of illness in asbestos miners and provided testimony to the extremely dangerous nature of asbestos dust. The company successfully kept both this information and any lawsuits that developed from it out of the public eye. Other U.S. companies also successfully suppressed information about the dangers of asbestos exposure.
During the 1950s both Johns Mansville and National Gypsum went to extraordinary lengths to suppress or edit their own research and staff recommendations regarding the dangers of asbestos fibers and the need to protect employees from it. Evidence continued to grow linking ,a mesothelioma and asbestos, as did the lawsuits against asbestos companies. By 1979, asbestos use was virtually banned for use in the United States by the EPA.
In the 1970s and 1980s, a series of class action lawsuits representing mesothelioma and asbestosis victims established liability among both asbestos producers and industries that manufactured products using asbestos. Among the crucial points of evidence were multiple actions taken by asbestos producers and users to suppress information about dangers of the substance.
Between 1973 and 1984, mesothelioma has tripled among white males. From 1980 to the late 1990s, the annual death rate from mesothelioma in the USA increased by 50% to 3,000. The numbers of people who were exposed to asbestos fibers and the liability assigned to the companies who profited from asbestos has led to multiple bankruptcies among major corporations -- among them Johns Mansville and W.R. Grace.
Multi-billion dollar trust funds have been established by these companies and others to provide compensation for http://www.mesotheliomawatch.org/mesothelioma lawsuit victims who spent careers working with asbestos, while management in the firms were well aware of the dangers deriving from asbestos exposure.
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