If you’ve just found out that a loved one was diagnosed with mesothelioma or another disease caused by asbestos, you may find yourself thinking about their exposure. In a lot of cases, people who were working in various factories or shipyards during the 1950s and 1960s – or even earlier, as you’ll see below – were unaware that they were slowly being exposed to such a dangerous substance. They were essentially being poisoned at work and they didn’t know.
One thing that is very concerning is simply how long this lasted. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the general public started to learn about all of the hazards of asbestos. This is when movements were started to ban the use of the product, leading us to the modern era, where asbestos is very infrequently used.
However, the use of these fibers in various products – tiles, insulation, etc – really saw its greatest heights in the late 1940s and 1950s. The post-war period in America saw a surge in construction and other types of production, and asbestos was very commonly used. This means that someone could have been exposed for three decades between World War II and the 1970s, before they finally found out what had been happening to them.
But was it a secret?
Another thing to keep in mind is that asbestos awareness in the United States may have dramatically increased in the 1970s, but it was already known to be dangerous elsewhere.
For example, lawmakers in the United Kingdom passed regulations in 1924 to keep factory workers safe. They already knew that breathing in dust containing asbestos was causing sickness among the workforce. It may be true that they didn’t have the level of understanding of that sickness that we have today – mesothelioma was unknown until the 1960s – but they clearly knew that there was a health hazard. It took 50 more years before the United States caught up, leading to an incredible amount of exposure that could have been avoided.
All that being said, you’re focused on your loved one, their future and their treatment options. Be sure you also know about the legal rights you may have to compensation for these costs.