Asbestos and Mesothelioma History Timeline

This history of asbestos exposure is a long and painful saga that has led far too many of our clients to disastrous fates, such as mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases. To help them and their families understand how they became so ill — and to help them deal with the consequences — Savinis & Kane, L.L.C., works to provide information as well as astute legal counsel.

The abbreviated chronological timeline below offers powerful insights. This list represents just a sampling of key events involving use of asbestos and reported illnesses and deaths. It includes noteworthy conclusions from the scientific and medical communities.

These landmarks tell an enlightening tale about what happened, who knew what (and when and where), and who has suffered along the way. While many people in decision-making positions may not have known for many years about the cause-and-effect relationship between asbestos exposure and mesothelioma, many others had no excuse — and chose not to protect customers and employees.

Talk to an attorney if you suspect that asbestos exposure in your past has resulted in illness that you now must cope with — or if a family member died of mesothelioma.

Asbestos Usage in Industry

Dating as long ago as 2500 B.C., asbestos fibers were being used in pottery.

In 1866, asbestos was used as heat insulation.

In about 1880, modern industry began to use asbestos to make heat and acid resistant fabrics.

In 1895, a patent was issued in England for making railroad brake linings with asbestos.

In 1903, U.S. companies began using asbestos in cement production.

Reported Cases of Illness and Fatalities

In 1906, the first-recorded asbestosis case was reported in London. The affected person had worked in an asbestos textile plant for a number of years.

In 1906, many deaths were reported among employees of an asbestos textile factory in France.

In 1911, a professor at Sheffield University in the United Kingdom (J.M. Beattie) reported in the Annual Report of HM Chief Inspector of Factories for 1910 that experimental animals that had inhaled asbestos showed signs of fibrosis, and that five people working to produce woven asbestos had died of phthisis. The report recommended ventilation to protect workers.

Responses by Organizations to Growing Body of Evidence of Asbestos-Induced Diseases

In 1912, the American Association for Labor Legislation designated asbestos-related disease as an industrial disease. The same year, the Department of Labour in Canada did the same.

In 1918, the Bulletin of U.S. Labor Statistics reported that American and Canadian insurance companies were declining to insure asbestos workers.

In 1927, various researchers described asbestosis as observed in lung tissue. That same year, the first official occupational disease injury claim was filed in Massachusetts.

In 1928, The Journal of the American Medical Association issued an editorial on the need for more attention on the dangers of pulmonary asbestosis.

Landmark Research Studies

In 1930, researchers Merewether and Price reported very high percentages of pulmonary fibrosis among asbestos tile workers. Merewether also wrote about the correlation between exposure to asbestos and the disease of asbestosis. That same year, The Journal of the American Medical Association published highlights from the statistics compiled by Merewether and others.

Throughout the 1930s, numerous other researchers and authorities issued reports about asbestosis and its relation to asbestos exposure, including reports concluding that asbestos was a progressive disease that can continue to get worse long after exposure ends, and that it was incurable.

Governmental Action

In 1935, North Carolina designated asbestosis a compensable disease.

In 1936, Congress enacted the Walsh-Healey Act, which included a general standard for the health and safety of government contractor employees: " (e) That no part of such contract will be performed...under working conditions which are unsanitary or hazardous or dangerous to the health and safety of employees engaged in the performance of said contract."

In the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, reports were published by various sources confirming asbestosis as a problem among insulation workers, shipyard workers, factory workers, plumbers, asbestos company employees, pipe fitters, bricklayers, plasterer mixers, auto mechanics doing automotive undercoating, iron workers, brake repair workers, steam fitters, gas fitters, asbestos textile workers, chemical workers and other types of manual laborers.

Connecting the Dots From Asbestos Exposure to Mesothelioma

Over the years, numerous researchers began to point out the correlation between mesothelioma (a cancer of the thin lining that covers organs, including lungs) and asbestos exposure. Authorities drawing this conclusion have included The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety, the New York Academy of Sciences, and the National Cancer Institute.

Industrial standards in various industries began to articulate asbestos exposure prevention best practices throughout the 1930s and beyond. It was well known in the 1930s that if one controlled asbestos exposure, one controlled asbestos disease. Although the disease mesothelioma did not have a name in the 1930s, prevention of other asbestos diseases, such as asbestosis, by eliminating asbestos exposures, would have prevented mesothelioma and other asbestos cancers.

In 1964, a New York Academy of Sciences conference on the "Biological Effects of Asbestos" included presentations by more than 80 of the world's leading researchers on the subject. Presentations largely focused on preventing asbestos exposure. The conference was widely publicized in the news media. In 1969, the Department of Labor (DOL) adopted a new standard for employers under the Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act.

"OSHA first regulated asbestos in 1971 when, under authority of section 6(a) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, it adopted the existing Federal standard for asbestos under the Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act." ( Source: U.S. Department of Labor).

OSHA continued to fine-tune regulations having to do with potential asbestos exposure throughout the 1970s. For example, this agency issued an emergency standard regarding ship repairing, shipbuilding and longshoring industries in 1972.

Research studies throughout the 1970s and beyond continued to identify additional occupations with risk of asbestos exposure, including boilermakers, bakers, carpenters, custodial workers, electricians, jewelers, masons, mechanics, painters, plumbers, power plant workers, roofers, smelter workers, school teachers and welders.

Investigate Your Own Asbestos Case History Timeline

When were you likely exposed? How long did it take for you to develop symptoms? When did doctors issue a diagnosis of your asbestosis or mesothelioma? When will you take the next steps toward filing a meritorious claim? Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, lawyers at Savinis & Kane, L.L.C., can help evaluate your case and determine whether an asbestos claim is merited in your case.