Asbestos is an organic substance. It is made of strong flexible fibres. Asbestos was used during post war building because of it’s heat and fire resistant similarities. This fact alone made asbestos a cheap favoured material for any product that was required to be fireproof. Thousands of products were manufactured during the 1940’s and onwards that contained asbestos while scientists were ignorant of the lung damage that exposure could have on people.
It is often thought that asbestos was used mainly for insulating lofts and for factory buildings to keep the risk of fire damage to a minimum but asbestos was used in more personal items such as race car helmets and it is thought that the film star Steve McQueen died of mesothelioma lung cancer due to his use of racing helmets. In fact, any product that was used in a fire risk character was probably made partly from asbestos before the deadly character of the material was fully discovered. It can take 50 years before mesothelioma cancer develops after exposure to asbestos but what makes this cancer different is the fact that is almost thoroughly attributable to asbestos unlike other forms of cancer that have numerable cause factors and influences.
During the 1980’s the deadly effect of asbestos was fully understood and this has led to extensive removal of the substance from office buildings, factories, private homes, building materials and products used in fire and safety. But the effect that asbestos had already had on those living and working around it is nevertheless presenting itself in litigation situations and injury claims today with no real idea of when this trend will tail off.
The terrorist attacks on New York in 2001 left many people debating the extent of the asbestos inhalation during the immediate aftermath but as for the expected number of mesothelioma claims which will follow it is anyone’s guess. Some are predicting a litigation time bomb but in a country like the US this would seem like a contradiction in terms.