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Mesothelioma and Asbestos History

A brief chronology of what the owners and managers of asbestos companies knew, and when they knew it.
 

1890s Asbestos, which previously had few industrial uses, becomes a raw material for large manufacturing industries, exposing large numbers of workers to asbestos dust for the first time. Asbestos-caused disease often develops decades after a person was first exposed. As a result, it was not until the early 1900s that large numbers of workers developed symptoms.David Kotelchuck, "Asbestos: ''The Funeral Dress of Kings' - and Others" in Dying for Work: Workers' Safety and Health in Twentieth-Century America, ed. by David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN 1987, p193

1918 A Prudential Insurance Company official notes that life insurance companies will not cover asbestos workers, because of the "health-injurious conditions of the industry." .Barry I. Castleman, Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects, 4th edition, Aspen Law and Business, Englewood Cliffs, NJ 1996, p.5-6

1930 Major asbestos company Johns-Manville produces report, for internal company use only, about medical reports of asbestos worker fatalities. Barry I. Castleman, Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects, 4th edition, Aspen Law and Business, Englewood Cliffs, NJ 1996, p.663

1932 Letter from U.S. Bureau of Mines to asbestos manufacturer Eagle-Picher states: "It is now known that asbestos dust is one of the most dangerous dusts to which man is exposed." .Paul Brodeur, Outrageous Misconduct: The Asbestos Industry on Trial, Pantheon Books, New York NY, 1985, p.327

1933 Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. doctors find that 29 percent of workers in a Johns-Manville plant have asbestosis. Barry I. Castleman, Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects, 4th edition, Aspen Law and Business, Englewood Cliffs, NJ 1996, p.26 Johns-Manville officials settle lawsuits by 11 employees with asbestosis on the condition that the employees' lawyer agree to never again "directly or indirectly participate in the bringing of new actions against the Corporation." .Paul Brodeur, Outrageous Misconduct: The Asbestos Industry on Trial, Pantheon Books, New York NY, 1985, p.114

1934 Officials of two large asbestos companies, Johns-Manville and Raybestos-Manhattan, edit an article about the diseases of asbestos workers written by a Metropolitan Life Insurance Company doctor. The changes minimize the danger of asbestos dust. .Paul Brodeur, Outrageous Misconduct: The Asbestos Industry on Trial, Pantheon Books, New York NY, 1985, p.114-15

1935 Officials of asbesots industry memoJohns-Manville and Raybestos-Manhattan instruct the editor of Asbestos magazine to publish nothing about asbestosis. .Paul Brodeur, Outrageous Misconduct: The Asbestos Industry on Trial, Pantheon Books, New York NY, 1985, p.116

1936 A group of asbestos companies agrees to sponsor research on the health effects of asbestos dust, but require that the companies maintain complete control over the disclosure of the results. .Barry I. Castleman, Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects, 4th edition, Aspen Law and Business, Englewood Cliffs, NJ 1996, p.587

1942 Internal Owens-Corning corporate memo refer to "medical literature on asbestosis . . . . scores of publications in which the lung and skin hazards of asbestos are discussed." .Barry I. Castleman, Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects, 4th edition, Aspen Law and Business, Englewood Cliffs, NJ 1996, p.195

1942 or 1943 The president of Johns-Manville says that the managers of another asbestos company were "a bunch of fools for notifying employees who had asbestosis." When one of the managers asks, "do you mean to tell me you would let them work until they dropped dead?" The response is reported to have been, "Yes. We save a lot of money that way." .Testimony of Charles H. Roemer, Deposition taken April 25, 1984, Johns-Manville Corp., et al v. the United States of America, U.S. Claims Court Civ. No. 465-83C, cited in Barry I. Castleman, Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects, 4th edition, Aspen Law and Business, Englewood Cliffs, NJ 1996, p.581

1944 Metropolitan Life Insurance Company report finds 42 cases of asbestosis among 195 asbestos miners. .Barry I. Castleman, Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects, 4th edition, Aspen Law and Business, Englewood Cliffs, NJ 1996, p.654

1951 Asbestos companies remove all references to cancer before allowing publication of research they sponsor. .Barry I. Castleman, Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects, 4th edition, Aspen Law and Business, Englewood Cliffs, NJ 1996, p.71

1952 Dr. Kenneth Smith, Johns-Manville medical director, recommends (unsuccessfully) that warning labels be attached to products containing asbestos. Later Smith testifies: "It was a business decision as far as I could understand . . . the corporation is in business to provide jobs for people and make money for stockholders and they had to take into consideration the effects of everything they did and if the application of a caution label identifying a product as hazardous would cut into sales, there would be serious financial implications." .Barry I. Castleman, Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects, 4th edition, Aspen Law and Business, Englewood Cliffs, NJ 1996, p.666

1953 National Gypsum's safety director writes to the Indiana Division of Industrial Hygiene, recommending that acoustic plaster mixers wear respirators "because of the asbestos used in the product." Another company official notes that the letter is "full of dynamite," urges that it be retrieved before reaching its destination. A memo in the files notes that the company "succeeded in stopping" the letter, which "will be modified." .Barry I. Castleman, Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects, 4th edition, Aspen Law and Business, Englewood Cliffs, NJ 1996, p.669-70

1964 Dr. Irving Selikoff publishes a study of asbestos workers in the Journal of the American Medical Association, proving that people who work with asbestos-containing materials have an abnormal incidence of asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. .Barry I. Castleman, Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects, 4th edition, Aspen Law and Business, Englewood Cliffs, NJ 1996, p.126

1966 Raybestos-Manhattan official writes: "We feel that the recent unfavorable publicity over the use of asbestos fibers in many different kinds of industries has been a gross exaggeration of the problems. There is no data available to either prove or disprove the dangers of working closely with asbestos." .Barry I. Castleman, Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects, 4th edition, Aspen Law and Business, Englewood Cliffs, NJ 1996, p.590

1971 First OSHA asbestos-exposure standard issued. .Federal Register, vol.36, p.10466 et. seq.; May 29, 1971

1973 The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) bans spray-on asbestos insulation as an air pollution hazard. .Federal Register, vol.38, p.8820 et. seq.; April 6, 1973

1977 Lawyers for injured workers obtain the Sumner Simpson papers, which show that the companies had suppressed information about the danger of asbestos for at least 40 years. .Paul Brodeur, Outrageous Misconduct: The Asbestos Industry on Trial, Pantheon Books, New York NY, 1985, p.111.* The first bill to limit the product liability of asbestos companies is introduced in Congress. .Paul Brodeur, Outrageous Misconduct: The Asbestos Industry on Trial, Pantheon Books, New York NY, 1985, p.194

1978 Judge rules there had been "a conscious effort by the [asbestos] industry in the 1930s to downplay or arguably suppress, the dissemination of information to employees and the public for fear of the promotion of lawsuits." .Amended order, Barnett v. Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp et al, State of South Carolina, County of Greenville, Court of Common Pleas, Aug. 23, 1978, cited in Barry I. Castleman, Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects, 4th edition, Aspen Law and Business, Englewood Cliffs, NJ 1996, p.585

1979 U.S. EPA announces intention to issue rule that bans all uses of asbestos. .Federal Register, vol 44, p.60061 (Rulemaking completed after 10 years, in 1989)

1982 Johns-Manville files for bankruptcy protection. .Paul Brodeur, Outrageous Misconduct: The Asbestos Industry on Trial, Pantheon Books, New York NY, 1985, p.249

1986 OSHA tightens asbestos-exposure standard. .Federal Register vol. 51, p.22733, June 20, 1986. U.S. EPA publishes text of proposed rule to ban all uses of asbestos. .Environmental Defense Newsletter, XVII:2 May 1986

1989 The U.S. EPA bans asbestos in most of its major uses, but . . . . Federal Register, vol.59, p.41027, August 10, 1994

1991 Asbestos companies win federal lawsuit, court revokes EPA's 1989 asbestos ban. .Federal Register, vol.59, p.41027, August 10, 1994

1994 OSHA tightens asbestos-exposure standard. .Federal Register, vol. 59, p.40964 et. seq., August 10, 1994

1999 Florida Supreme Court rules that Owens Corning willfully withheld information about the danger of working with the company's asbestos products: "It would be difficult to envision a more egregious set of circumstances . . . . a blatant disregard for human safety involving large numbers of people put at life-threatening risk." .Opinion No. 92,963, August 26, 1999


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