The 4,500 Year Journey Between Asbestos Discovery and Its Banishment: Part Four

The dangers of asbestos have been visible for nearly 2000 years, so why did it take so long for it to be recognised as a toxic material. PAC Asbestos Surveys digs into the history of Asbestos from its discovery over 4,500 years ago to its eventual banishment in 1999. This is the four of a five-part blog series that we will be publishing over the next few weeks.

1960s – Health Warnings Ignored Across the Asbestos Industry

Medical literature continued to showcase evidence that asbestos is a major carcinogen and a hazard to the environment – over 200 publications by the end of the 1960s. Despite having all of this knowledge about diseases and death resulting from asbestos exposure, manufacturers and installers of the material continued to sell and install it without warning workers about the known effects. This is made worse by the fact that many of these companies had secured information about the connection between asbestos and cancer as early as the 1930s. It was revealed that the companies to ordered these reports altered the research in order to hide their findings from the public.

1964 – Disease Widespread Among Asbestos Workers

A major researcher at Mt Sinai Hospital in New York, Dr Selikoff, confirmed that there was widespread disease among asbestos workers and the families of those who work within the asbestos industry. His report also included a number of job titles of those who were affected – including construction workers, electricians, plumbers and carpenters.

1967 – A worker Gains First Successful Personal Injury Claim in UK

A victim of asbestos exposure in the UK successfully filed a personal injury claim in 1967, which was upheld by courts in 1971. This case eventually paved the way for more claims of companies being negligent about asbestos exposure by victims who suffered from mesothelioma, asbestosis and other asbestos related diseases.

1969 – Asbestos Regulations Revamped in the UK

In the UK, the outdated asbestos regulations of 1931 were updated in 1969 and enabled asbestos to be regulated beyond the manufacturing process, expanding to every industry in which the product is used. These regulations required companies to use exhaust ventilation, protective equipment and improve their handling procedures. This was put in place to reduce the worker’s exposure to asbestos dust but did not fully eliminate the causes of asbestos-related diseases.

1970 – Congress Approves the Clear Air Act

In 1970, Congress passed a bill called the Clean Air Act which allowed the Environmental Protection Agency to be able to regulate asbestos as a hazardous air pollutant.