Decades ago, asbestos companies were well aware that asbestos caused life threatening diseases such as mesothelioma.
Because they were more concerned with protecting their profits than protecting lives, the companies chose to hide this information.
Before the start of the 20th century, people started to realize that asbestos could pose a risk to health. This goes all the way back to 1898, when inspectors of British factories recognized that workers were at risk of developing health problems due to exposure to asbestos. Soon, the U.S. began to take note as well. In 1918, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there was an “unusually high death rate” among asbestos workers. In a historic 1930 report, Drs. Merewether and Price revealed that asbestos workers were definitely at occupational risk for cancer. In 1938, it was determined that lung cancer was an occupational disease of asbestos workers.
Seven years later, both the scientific and medical communities agreed that asbestos was a carcinogen. In 1960, mesothelioma – an aggressive and devastating cancer – was linked to asbestos. A now-famous study of insulators was presented by Dr. Irving Selikoff in New York City in 1964. It was presented at a widely publicized and well-attended conference.
As the evidence continued to mount, asbestos companies actively worked to keep information regarding the health risks of asbestos exposure hidden from public view. While some companies paid for scientific research, at the same time they quelled publication of that research because they owned it. There were some companies that, for lack of a better term, “requested” information exposing the health hazards of asbestos exposure be kept confidential. Others simply chose to bury their heads in the sand and ignore the risks posed by their products.
All the while millions of people in the United States continued to be exposed to asbestos and suffered asbestos cancer risks. Each year, asbestosis, mesothelioma, asbestos lung cancer and other asbestos-related diseases kill an estimated 10,000 Americans each year.