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Although most asbestos usage was outlawed in the late 1980s, its popularity throughout the 19th and 20th centuries means that many people were exposed to the substance. Inhalation of asbestos fibers can be deadly, because it causes several different diseases, including mesothelioma. This is a particular cancer that attacks the lining of the abdominal cavity and lining of the organs.
Asbestos is a silicate mineral that was first utilized as long as 3,000 years ago by ancient people who lived in present-day Finland, as well as Greeks and Romans. In fact, Strabo, a Greek geographer, noted the lung problems that arose from prolonged asbestos exposure. The Roman Renaissance man Pliny the Elder also recorded the commonness of lung issues that arose in slaves who worked in asbestos mines or wove the substance into fabric. Indeed, he recommended that people should not purchase slaves who had had extensive exposure to asbestos.
Sadly, though, we ourselves did not listen to these warnings. After falling off the radar a bit, asbestos enjoyed a resurgence in popularity at the start of the industrial revolution. This is because the widespread usage of hot machines required insulation. As a silicate mineral, asbestos is resistant to heat, flame, chemicals, electricity, and biodegradation. Additionally, it has the added qualities of high tensile strength and flexibility. This helps explain why it was added to everything from ceiling tiles to gaskets to stage curtains.
In the United States, Navy doctors began reporting lung diseases tied to the material. People who build and lived on Navy ships were constantly surrounded by asbestos-containing artifacts since this branch of the armed forces basically mandated that all components should contain asbestos. Of course, while they were thinking this would help the seamen due to the insulating properties of asbestos, this was actually hurting them.
At first, it was difficult for doctors to correctly diagnose mesothelioma because it was similar to other lung issues, such as tuberculosis and lung cancer. However, an increase in our diagnostic capabilities combined with further research into asbestos-related diseases contributed to a rise in mesothelioma diagnoses between 1973 and 1984. These findings are what helped to bring about the banishment and phase-out of asbestos starting in 1988. Even into the 1990s, the mesothelioma rate grew because many people take years before they show symptoms of the diseases.
We will probably see even more mesothelioma in the future, as it is estimated to peak in 2016. Obviously, the ban on the material came too late for many. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you should speak to a lawyer about your legal options. To talk to a mesothelioma attorney, check out the law firm of Williams Kherkher today.
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