High rates of sickness among asbestos workers came to light during the last years of the 19th century and in 1924, doctors described and named the fatal disease asbestosis. The connection between asbestos and the fatal cancer mesothelioma took many years longer to emerge. In the 1930s and 40s, a number of asbestos workers became ill with lung cancer. Tobacco use, however, was on the rise in those years, and it had been linked to lung cancer in the 1920s, so it was hard to tell what type of cancer was responsible for the death unless an autopsy was performed.
Following World War II, asbestos mining in South Africa was flourishing. In 1948, the medical superintendent at the area’s first chest and infectious disease hospital began to see a notable presence of lung disease in the ward.
Another medical researcher became aware of this uncharacteristic lung disease in the 1950s. By the late 1950s, the connection between mesothelioma and asbestos was well-documented. After this connection hit a British medical journal late that decade, asbestos mines were harshly criticized. Yet, the mining industry put so much political pressure on the researchers that the mines continued to thrive for years.
Throughout the 1970s more and more reports mesothelioma were brought to light. Some asbestos companies began replacing instances of the toxic mineral with safer alternatives like fiberglass. But most insulation materials before the mid-1970s contained some degree of asbestos.
If you or a family member has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or asbestosis, please contact the experienced mesothelioma lawyers in Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, D.C. for a free initial consultation.