Many companies that manufactured asbestos-containing products knew that asbestos could cause deadly diseases. However, these companies hid the truth from the U.S. military and the public for decades.
It wasn’t until the 1970s that laws were passed to limit asbestos use — but many products containing this toxic mineral remain legal in the United States.
If you or a loved one developed an asbestos-related disease, you may be eligible to file an asbestos lawsuit.
The Dangers of Asbestos Exposure
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral valued for its strength, fire-resistant qualities, and affordability. It was widely used throughout the 20th century in the construction of homes and office buildings, automobile production, U.S. Navy ships, and more.
However, as scientists researched the link between asbestos and disease, it became clear that exposure to asbestos can be deadly.
Scientists found that asbestos fibers are unable to be broken down by the body. If the fibers are inhaled or ingested, those exposed can develop serious illnesses decades after coming in contact with asbestos.
When asbestos fibers are disturbed and dispersed in the air, they can cause irritation within the body — even if someone is only around the fibers for a short time. Asbestos is a known carcinogen, which means that it’s capable of causing cancer.
Asbestos-related diseases include:
- Asbestosis: Asbestosis is the most common disease caused by asbestos fibers. After breathing in asbestos fibers, damage and non-cancerous scarring can form within the lungs.
- Lung cancer: Asbestos-related lung cancer is caused by asbestos fibers that are stuck in healthy lung tissue and cause the tissue to become inflamed. The symptoms of asbestos lung cancer are similar to those of non-asbestos lung cancer.
- Mesothelioma: Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that occurs when asbestos fibers get trapped in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart. After causing irritation for multiple years, cells begin to mutate and cause cancerous tumors.
Many companies that made asbestos products knew of the potential health risks for decades, yet notable pieces of asbestos legislation (laws limiting asbestos use) were not established until the 1970s.
By that time, the rising awareness of asbestos as a health hazard had grown into a public concern. The secret was out that various industries had concealed the dangers of asbestos exposure to keep profits high.
However, hundreds of thousands of innocent people had already been put at risk.
As a national mesothelioma law firm, Sokolove Law has been helping victims of asbestos exposure hold the companies responsible for their illness accountable for over 40 years.
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The Early Asbestos Industry Cover-Up
Starting with the Industrial Revolution, asbestos was widely used in many products and industrial applications. However, scientists had known that asbestos was linked to health problems as early as the 1900s.
The asbestos industry knew that these studies would not be good for business, so they actively worked to discredit the findings or simply prevent the publication of this information.
Released during lawsuits in 1978, internal documents from asbestos-containing product manufacturers reveal that lawyers for Johns-Manville — the largest U.S. producer of asbestos-containing materials at the time — asked scientists to soften studies that linked asbestos to lung damage.
The company even prevented scientists from releasing anti-asbestos studies. Other high-profile asbestos-related companies used similar tactics in an industry-wide cover-up.
The History of Asbestos Litigation & Legislation
It was not until 1969 that Johns-Manville would pay $1 Million in workers' compensation claims for 285 employees with asbestosis. By this point, asbestos was being regularly used in products to make buildings, vehicles, weapons, construction materials, and more.
However, as the dangers of asbestos became more widely known, the medical community published journal articles linking it to asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.
Congress passed the Clean Air Act of 1970 in response to these scientific findings. This act classified asbestos as a toxic chemical and allowed the newly created Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate its use.
Unfortunately, these early precautions did not deter manufacturers of asbestos-containing products. Most manufacturers continued to discredit the scientific findings, just like they had done for decades.
You can seek legal help if you fell ill after being exposed to asbestos, even if the illness didn’t develop until years later. By filing an asbestos claim, you may be able to access funds that can help pay for your medical treatments.
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.
These papers detailed how Johns-Manville and other manufacturers of asbestos-containing products conspired to keep the dangers of asbestos hidden 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 floodgates for numerous asbestos claims shortly thereafter.
By 1978, the Washington Post reported that legal claims from victims of asbestos-related diseases totaled over $2 Billion.
Asbestos Lawsuits & the Creation of Asbestos Trust Funds
Faced with billions of dollars in asbestos lawsuits, the Manville Corporation (formerly Johns-Manville) filed for bankruptcy in 1982. This was one of the largest bankruptcies of the time.
Afterward, the nation’s federal bankruptcy laws were revised to allow companies to continue operating if they set up special trusts to pay victims who could prove their asbestos-containing products caused diseases.
Manufacturers of asbestos-containing products who were seeking to file for bankruptcy were ordered to set aside money in these asbestos trust funds in an attempt to right the wrongs of their corporate greed.
Other major asbestos companies like Owens-Corning, W.R. Grace, and U.S. Gypsum followed suit with their own asbestos bankruptcies 20 years later.
Asbestos Laws & Regulations
In conjunction with these high-profile bankruptcies, the government passed new legislation to limit the use of asbestos moving forward and reduce the existing risks by removing asbestos products from older buildings.
Asbestos legislation included:
- Asbestos School Hazard Abatement Act of 1984: This act allowed schools to receive government funding for their asbestos removal projects. The initial act allocated $600 Million. This act was reauthorized in 1990 with additional funding.
- Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act of 1986: This act became law after the public uproar about asbestos in schools. It called on the EPA to create asbestos regulations for the safe removal of asbestos-containing products from schools. Those who would inspect and remove the asbestos had to be accredited by the EPA beforehand.
- Asbestos Information Act of 1988: This act required the makers of asbestos products to report what products contained asbestos and how to identify the asbestos in them. The EPA would then compile a report on their findings.
- Asbestos Ban and Phase-Out Rule: The EPA introduced this rule in the late 1980s to ban asbestos from future use almost completely. The regulation went into effect in 1989, but it was short-lived. After intense lobbying, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned most of the rule in 1991, leaving only a handful of products still banned.
Thanks to asbestos and mesothelioma legislation, our mesothelioma lawyers are able to pursue compensation from the asbestos-related companies that may be responsible for your illness.
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At Sokolove Law, we’ve recovered over $4.7 Billion for thousands of mesothelioma patients and their families nationwide. Let us get you the results you deserve.
Asbestos Use in the United States Today: Is Asbestos Legal?
Despite the well-known risks to human health, there is currently no federal asbestos ban in the United States. In fact, the U.S. is one of the few major industrialized countries that continues to allow companies to use asbestos in their products.
Asbestos use is regulated by state and federal laws, and the EPA currently evaluates the use of asbestos on a case-by-case basis.
In April 2022, the EPA proposed a ban on chrysotile asbestos (also known as white asbestos). Chrysotile accounts for the majority of asbestos used throughout the United States, and the proposed ban would prohibit manufacturers from importing, processing, or distributing products that contain chrysotile asbestos.
Until legislation is passed to significantly halt the use of asbestos, it will continue to pose a threat to human health.
"Breathing [asbestos fibers] can trigger lethal diseases. There is no debate about that. But more than 50 years after a landmark study confirmed this, asbestos is a poster child for a broken regulatory process. It is still used by U.S. industry, present in 30 million homes, and is a contaminant in consumer products, including children's toys and makeup."
– Miles O’Brien, Veteran & Journalist, PBS
Fortunately, those who are diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease may be eligible for financial compensation through a mesothelioma lawsuit or an asbestos trust fund claim.
To learn if you may be eligible to file an asbestos or mesothelioma legal claim, call (800) 647-3434 or fill out our contact form today.
Sokolove Law: Nationwide Mesothelioma Litigation
At Sokolove Law, our asbestos litigation attorneys have decades of experience fighting for justice on behalf of our clients and their families. We have helped recover over $4.7 Billion across the country through asbestos litigation cases.
If you have mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, you may be eligible to pursue financial compensation through an asbestos trust fund claim or lawsuit.
Though money can never replace your health or the life of someone you love, it can help pay for medical bills and provide your family with financial security, so you can focus on spending time with those closest to you.
Our experienced asbestos attorneys treat our clients with the utmost compassion while striving to hold negligent corporations accountable for their actions.
To learn more about asbestos and mesothelioma legal help, contact Sokolove Law now for a free case review.
Asbestos & Mesothelioma Litigation FAQs
Is asbestos still used today?
Yes. While some regulations on asbestos use exist, this toxic mineral can still legally be used in a variety of products and settings.
Asbestos is often used in commercial or industrial spaces, but anyone is at risk of being exposed to asbestos at school, work, or even at home.
What products contain asbestos?
Asbestos is still found in numerous products today, like:
- Building materials (shingles, siding, tiles, cement)
- Car brakes, clutches, and transmission parts
- Heat-resistant fabrics
- Textured paint
These are just a few items that may contain asbestos. If you or a loved one was exposed to asbestos and became ill, reach out to our team today to see if you may be eligible to pursue compensation from the companies that caused you harm.
Why is asbestos not banned?
Over 50 countries around the world have banned asbestos, but the United States is not one of them.
Unfortunately, though asbestos is a known carcinogen (a substance capable of causing cancer), corporate and industry lobbyists have fought hard to pressure members of Congress to block bills that would ban this toxic mineral from being used in products.
Asbestos-related companies continue to protect their profits over the health and safety of those impacted by asbestos exposure.
How much does an asbestos litigation attorney cost?
Our asbestos and mesothelioma lawyers work on a contingency basis, which means there are no upfront costs or hourly fees.
We only get paid if we successfully secure compensation for you through an asbestos trust fund claim or mesothelioma litigation.