The American legal system has evolved over the years, and within it, asbestos litigation has evolved as well. The health risks associated with asbestos were known as early as the 1930s, but companies purposefully hid that knowledge from their employees.
In a previous blog post, we examined important dates in American history concerning asbestos litigation. Here, we will go through some of the most infamous asbestos litigation history facts that you may not be aware of. Did you know:
- Asbestos mines were used in ancient Greece, Finland, Sweden, and Cyprus as far back as 5000 BC.
- Archeological digs uncovered asbestos use in Egypt and Scandinavia dating back to 3000 BC.
- Asbestos was once used in burial shrouds for Egyptians in 2000 BC.
- The name “asbestos” dates back to 50 AD, when Roman Scholar Pliny the Elder wrote about the mineral and noticed grueling illnesses among slaves who had woven the mineral into cloths.
- Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne supposedly had a tablecloth made of asbestos that he purified by throwing into fire. He died in 814 from pleurisy (inflammation of a membrane that surrounds the lungs).
- The first U.S. patent for asbestos was issued in 1828.
- Use of asbestos really took off in the 1860s, when it was used as a raw material in manufacturing and construction industries.
- A report was released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 1918 that detailed early deaths among asbestos workers.
- The first known death from asbestos occurred in 1924, when British woman Nellie Kershaw dies from asbestosis.
- Johns-Manville, a major asbestos company, produced an internal report that detailed medical records of asbestos worker fatalities in 1930.
- Asbestos was once used in safety clothing. Because it is fireproof, asbestos was woven into clothing to shield people working with or in flammable areas.
- The first ill asbestos worker who filed an asbestos product liability in the United States actually lost the case. It happened in Beaumont, Texas in 1966.
- Hundreds of thousands of U.S. military veterans have been exposed to toxic asbestos-containing materials.
- By 1982, 1,000 asbestos claims had been filed with $1 billion spent by the defendants and insurers.
- Twenty years later, in 2002, 730,000 asbestos claims had been filed with $70 billion spent by defendants and insurers.
- While it is banned in Canada and the UK, asbestos is not banned in the United States.
Asbestos use in and of itself is not what led to the evolution of asbestos litigation in the United States. Rather, asbestos litigation transformed because companies knew the dangers of asbestos exposure, disregarded them, and failed to warn workers or provide them with protective gear. Although asbestos is not banned in the United States, regulations and increased awareness of the dangers of asbestos have led to positive changes in worker safety.