The Deadly Cover-Up By Asbestos Industry Giants

By  //  March 14, 2022

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(Environmental Litigation Group image)

Decades ago, asbestos was the standard in the construction industry. As a result, many individuals in environments where asbestos was mined, processed, and used regularly got exposed to the harmful substance. This exposure resulted in severe respiratory problems characterized by extensive lung damage that made breathing difficult for affected individuals.

As early as the 1890s, there were reports of health complications linked to asbestos exposure in the USA, Canada, and Europe. But it was not until the 1920s that leading medical journals started publishing articles linking asbestos to a lung disease referred to as asbestosis. This condition was especially prevalent among asbestos workers or people living near asbestos mines.

Choosing Profits Over Workers’ Lives

By the 1930s, scientists had already established a connection between asbestos and lung cancer. Around the same time period, doctors were making strides in understanding mesothelioma, a type of cancer affecting the lining of the lungs exclusively prevalent in persons exposed to asbestos.

However, as research continued to show the link between asbestos and lung diseases, the influence of the asbestos companies continued to expand as well. From 1940 to 1980, the industry had evolved into a multi-billion-dollar industry employing over 200,000 people.

For the industry to thrive, these companies were very proactive in ensuring that the miners and factory workers knew nothing about the dangers of asbestos exposure. Even with this knowledge, asbestos giants failed to provide workers with protective gear and bribed affected individuals to keep them from talking.

Callous Attitudes of Industry Players

The inaction of asbestos industry players is a blatant display of a lack of regard for human life. Johns Manville was one of the most prominent asbestos industry company players in the USA from 1920 to the 1970s. According to Charles H. Roemer, who owned Unarco, another asbestos company, Manville’s president Lewis Brown referred to Unarco managers as fools for disclosing the dangers of asbestos to their workers.

However, it is not just the workers that are exposed to asbestos that are at risk, their families are as well. According to railroad injury attorney, Christopher Murphy, “Immediate families are exposed to asbestos through their contact with the clothing, skin, and hair of the person directly exposed, increasing their risk of developing an asbestos-related disease as well.”

This callous attitude is not limited to Johns Manville. Many asbestos companies participated in the cover-up, including paying off a key mesothelioma researcher J. C. Wagner to backtrack his scientific research that showed a connection between asbestos exposure and the disease.

This cover-up and the backtracking of Wagner’s position bought time for the companies at the cost of the health and lives of asbestos workers and consumers. As recently as 2015, Honeywell, an asbestos company, was one of the principal backers of legislation known as the FACT Act passed by Congress in 2015, which seemingly turned the tides in favor of asbestos companies. According to reports, the company contributed $250,000 to house members between 2010 and 2015 to pass the bill.

Affected Individuals Still Seek Compensation for Damages

Even today, lawsuits from affected individuals are arising due to the cover-ups by asbestos companies. While lawsuits cannot undo the damage caused by asbestos exposure, they serve to bring the people responsible for the cover-up to justice.