In the 1970s, the US government stepped in to ban asbestos related products in America. However, much before this, the hazards of asbestos were researched and documented. In the early Greek and Roman times itself, it was pointed out that the slaves who worked in asbestos quarries or who wore clothes woven with asbestos suffered from lung damage. In the late 20th century, physicians started realizing that various respiratory problems and pulmonary problems affected those who inhaled asbestos dust. In 1906, for the first time, a death was documented as caused by asbestos exposure.
Most of the asbestos related diseases have a very long latency period. Sometimes, even up to 40 years. So, the diseases were not recognized and named for many years. In the beginning of the twentieth century, the various diseases caused due to exposure to asbestos were identified. However, it was in the 1940s only that mesothelioma was recognized and named. At every stage, the asbestos companies tried to cover up their acts. They tried to bribe officials and threaten researchers to give up all studies on the hazards of asbestos.
They did not provide any safeguards to their employees. The safeguards, which would have protected their employees from asbestosis, mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases, are
§ protective clothing,
§ protective masks,
§ protective gloves,
§ protective shoes and
§ a bath before going home from the industry or mine and so on.
Since the asbestos companies did not want their employees to have any inkling about the hazards of asbestos, they provided none of the above safeguards to their employees. Also, they concealed the medical reports of their employees, who died due to asbestos-related deaths. All this information was also concealed from the other employees. Many large Corporations were facing lots of asbestos related lawsuits. To avoid such legal issues that marred their status, they demanded their lawyers to settle these cases out-of-court. After this, the main asbestos corporations conducted research studies to find out about the hazards of working with asbestos. When the results of these studies were released, the industrialists hushed up most of the shocking research results and released only a modified report to their employees and the general public.
The dangers caused by asbestos are not limited to only asbestosis, fibrosis and asbestos warts but also extends to lung cancer. Asbestos first leads to breathing difficulties, heart enlargement, dry cough and coughing up blood. Though this sounds terrible, lung cancer is even more horrible. Tumors are caused in the body parts like lungs, abdomen or heart. These tumors may also spread throughout the body, with death being the inevitable conclusion to the patients suffering.
As soon as the asbestos companies sensed that asbestos leads to cancer, they became tensed. They started to cover up these research reports. They felt scared that their economic profits were threatened. Thus, they did not care about the hazards of asbestos on the health of their employees. In some of the factories, the supervisors and others, who knew about the hazards of asbestos, tried to provide some safeguards to the employees. However, the owners tried to stop them as they did not want their laborers to have even inkling about the dangers of exposure to asbestos.
In spite of all this, several medical professionals and research organizations brought out reports highlighting the terrible health problems caused by exposure to asbestos. Only in the 1970s action was taken to reduce asbestos exposure. In 1973, it was stated that spray-on asbestos insulation is an air pollution hazard. Then, the EPA banned spray-on asbestos insulation. Further, in the end of 1970s, information began to surface that asbestos companies and industrialists covered up the hazards of asbestos and suppressed valuable information. It annoyed and enraged people all around the world that their employers were so selfish about their profits. Also, the companies wanted to avoid legal risks by the employees and their families.
After this, the US banned all types of asbestos. Many other countries also followed US example, but the damage has been done long back. The suppression of information did not give any choice to the laborers and thus, they were Exposed to asbestos. Because of the long latency period of asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma, these people are still suffering from these diseases and will continue to suffer for another decade or two.