Modern asbestos industrial use was introduced in 1858 by H.W. Johns. He would go on to form the Johns Manville Corporation, by the mid-twentieth century one of the largest producers of asbestos products in the world. Asbestos in its natural form is an ore made of strong, resilient fibers that have a high insulation value and are impervious to fire. Mr. Johns began producing insulation products that found their way into industrial usage following the Civil War.
The proliferation of asbestos related diseases over the last several decades is due in large part to asbestos exposure that has occurred on the job. When asbestos products begin to deteriorate or are mangled in any fashion they release asbestos particles into the air that can be inhaled or ingested by someone in the area. The body cannot shed those tiny fibers; they remain in the body embedded in tissue. Eventually they can cause the development of malignant cells, beginning the development of mesothelioma or asbestos lung cancer. Workers who have been exposed to asbestos may also develop asbestosis, a debilitating but not necessarily fatal disease.
Mr. Johns himself died at a relatively young age from an unidentified respiratory ailment. Through the first 40 years of the twentieth century there was sporadic scientific research connecting asbestos exposure with several lung-related diseases. Several of the large manufacturers of asbestos related products or users of those products conducted health research on asbestos exposure and chose to keep the results confidential, since the evidence illustrated the connection between asbestos products and respiratory illness among their workers.
Asbestos Exposure in Industry
Asbestos was used extensively in the manufacture of insulation and fire retardant products. Any manufacturing plant that used heat on the production line would likely have asbestos insulation in place; protective clothing woven from asbestos fibers was common as well. The auto plants, steel mills, power plants, oil refineries, chemical plants and refractories that thrived in the 20th century used asbestos products, exposing their employees to the release of fibers on a daily basis.
Asbestos was mixed into cement to give it more resiliency. It was used for several construction products that building trades workers were exposed to daily: wallboard, flooring, ceiling tiles, roofing, sealants, joint compound, and insulation on electrical wiring. Other trades and other industries exposed their workers to asbestos through the use of asbestos belts on a production line, asbestos seals for pumps and pipe fittings, asbestos packing material for valves – the list extends to thousands of products and millions of workers.
Asbestos in the Armed Services
The hardest hit segment of the workforce for asbestos diseases has been shipyard workers and Navy veterans. Virtually all Navy vessels and commercial vessels had boilers and engine rooms lined with asbestos insulation. It was also used to insulate the pipe systems on board those vessels and as fire retardant material. Thousands of sailors who were active in the mid-twentieth century have developed mesothelioma cancer as a result of their maritime careers. Many shipyard workers who repaired and refit those vessels suffered the same fate.
Army and Marine veterans who worked in the motor pool or in engineering were exposed to asbestos gaskets, seals, and insulation material. Military personnel living in World War II era barracks and buildings were exposed to asbestos fibers from crumbling floor tiles, old insulation, or asbestos roofing materials. Veterans from every branch have been exposed to old asbestos in one form or another but it has been the Navy veterans that have been the hardest hit.
Asbestos Exposure and the Law
Since asbestos was declared a carcinogen in the 1970s there have been hundreds of thousands of lawsuits filed against companies whose employees were exposed to asbestos and later developed health problems as a result. If you or a family member was exposed to asbestos on the job and developed mesothelioma or lung cancer as a result you may be eligible for compensation. Contact an experienced asbestos attorney today at the Flood Law Group LLC.