While asbestos is now generally accepted as a health hazard, it wasn’t always. In fact, it took a number of decades before most officials began to recognize the substance as a danger. The regulation of asbestos was a very slow process, occurring gradually over the years.
In this blog, we will discuss asbestos as a toxic substance, explaining the history from 1900 onward. Read below to learn more!
The very first time that asbestos was suspected to cause a death was in the early 1900s. A doctor named Hubert Murray suspected that his patient, a textile worker, died from lung disease due to asbestos exposure. An autopsy showed that there were asbestos particles present in the worker’s lungs.
Medical researchers kept a close eye on the substance, but it took until 1924 for it to be written about in a scholarly medical journal. In this journal, the very first case of asbestosis was reported. This case of asbestosis, again, involved a textile worker.
After this publication was released, studies were carried out to ascertain as to whether or not asbestos exposure in factories was a legitimate problem. These studies showed a marked correlation between asbestos exposure and early death.
Throughout the 30s, 40, and 50s, despite the fact that many industrialists knew asbestos was a danger to workers, it was still used in the manufacturing of many goods. At the time, industrialists did everything they could to keep the dangers of asbestos out of the public consciousness.
Eventually, in the 1960s, the dangers of asbestos would be revealed to the public. Doctors spent a great deal of time studying the effects of asbestos on workers who worked in close proximity to it. Studies indicated a high rate of death and lung cancer among these individuals.
Once these studies were released, it became apparent that something needed to be done about the substance. It was at this point that asbestos started to become regulated. The Environmental Protection Agency as well as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration cracked down on the substance, limiting its existence in specific goods.
Initially, in 1971, these organizations required that asbestos be regulated to 12 fibers per cubic centimeter. However, by the end of the year, this figure was reduced to 5 fibers per cubic centimeter.
At the tail end of the 1970s, asbestos was deemed to be a carcinogen — a substance capable of causing cancer in living tissue. The EPA also announced plans to ban the substance entirely.
By 1986, the EPA and OSHA required that asbestos exposure be below 0.2 fibers per cubic centimeter. These organizations also put regulations on construction and demolition in order to counteract the effects of asbestos in the atmosphere.
These days, only small amounts of asbestos are allowed in products. The EPA and OSHA specify that asbestos exposure must be below 0.1 fibers per cubic centimeter.
While this level of exposure is not extraordinarily dangerous, it can still pose a significant risk, particularly to children and those who work around asbestos on a regular basis. Some products that are still manufactured with asbestos include car components, shingles, and potting soil.
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