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Asbestos Legislation

The Need for Asbestos Legislation

By the end of the 20th century, asbestos had gone from “miracle mineral” to global danger. This naturally occurring mineral was valued for its strength, fire-resistant qualities, and affordability. But as medical science began to research the link between asbestos and disease, it became clear that exposure to asbestos could be deadly.

Unfortunately, legislation around asbestos wasn’t established until the 1970s. At that time, the rising awareness of asbestos as a public health hazard and the outrage at how various industries had concealed the dangers of asbestos exposure finally triggered regulatory action.

Asbestos Legislation: The Beginnings

Asbestos was widely used in numerous products and industrial applications. During World War II, the popularity of asbestos surged as it was used worldwide for construction and shipbuilding. During that same time period, Johns-Manville, the largest U.S. producer of asbestos-containing materials, chose to keep its employees in the dark about the health risks they faced every day from asbestos exposure. It wasn’t until nearly 25 years later (in 1969) that Johns-Manville would pay $1 Million in workers’ compensation claims for 285 employees with asbestosis.

As the dangers of asbestos became more widely known and the medical community published journal articles linking it to asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma, Congress passed the Clean Air Act of 1970. This allowed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate asbestos as a hazardous air pollutant.

Asbestos Legislation: The Sumner Simpson Papers

In 1977, the “Sumner Simpson Papers” came to play an important role in asbestos legislation history. The papers emerged during the discovery process in an asbestosis lawsuit and detailed how Johns-Manville, along with other manufacturers of asbestos-containing products, conspired to keep the dangers of asbestos from their workers and the public.

The judge in the case ruled that there had been a “conscious effort” to conceal information to avoid lawsuits; this decision opened the flood gates for numerous asbestos claims shortly after.

Faced with billions of dollars in lawsuits, the Manville Corporation (formerly Johns-Manville) filed for bankruptcy in 1982 — one of the largest bankruptcies of the time. Afterwards, the nation’s federal bankruptcy laws were revised to allow companies to set aside their asbestos liabilities and continue operating if they set up trusts to pay victims who could prove exposure to their asbestos-containing products.

Owens-Corning, W.R. Grace, and U.S. Gypsum followed suit with their own asbestos bankruptcies. More than 50 trusts have been established in the last 30 years.

Sokolove Law Is Here to Help

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, call Sokolove Law today for a free legal consultation. Get started by speaking with a mesothelioma paralegal who will help to determine if you could be eligible for compensation.