Last month, the UK newspaper The Telegraph reported on asbestos, “the killer that still surrounds us”. It is incredibly sad that though asbestos has been know to be deadly for well over a hundred years, people are still exposed to and harmed by asbestos today.
A naturally-occurring fiber with amazing heat-resistant capacity and the ability to be woven, asbestos has been used in insulation, pipe fitting, boiler making, automotive and locomotive brakes, and other industries for a long time. It is even fabled that Charlemagne had a tablecloth of asbestos he’d clean by throwing into his fireplace. In the late 1800’s, doctors began to realize that inhalation of asbestos dust can cause severe damage to the lungs. Later, lung cancer and mesothelioma were linked to asbestos exposure.
The Telegraph: “According to Britain’s leading expert on mesothelioma, Professor Julian Peto, our best guess is that between 1970 and 2050, when the asbestos epidemic in Britain should have played itself out, some 90,000 people will have died. Most currently have no idea that they will die this way.”
Unfortunately, from the early 1900’s to the 1960’s, asbestos manufacturers such as Johns Manville worked to bury reports of asbestos-related illness and injury with “studies” of their own. Since then, most of the truth about asbestos exposure has been made clear, and nearly all asbestos manufacturers went bankrupt after setting up asbestos trusts to compensate workers injured by their products.
Even less fortunately, while the use of asbestos has widely been made illegal, it is still present as insulation in countless buildings, schools, ships, and shops around the world. The Telegraph reports that currently, this remaining asbestos kills more people in Britain than anywhere else.
The Telegraph writes, “For most of us, mesothelioma has been an easy disease to ignore. Asbestos, after all, is a product of the past. The most dangerous type of asbestos has not been used in Britain since the 1960s, when a voluntary industry ban came into effect. Even when it was used, only people in specific industries worked closely with it – pipe lagers, builders, carpenters and shipyard workers, for example. An industrial toxin from another era, it hardly seems cause for concern today.
But such complacency is misplaced. Britain, it turns out, is today at the peak of a mesothelioma epidemic. There are more mesothelioma deaths here than in any other country on the planet. With an annual toll of about 2,500, more than twice as many people die of the disease as die in accidents in motor vehicles.” (emphasis added)