Updates & timeline for asbestos exposure

March 2023 – EPA continues to attempt to pass regulations banning asbestos

The EPA continues to attempt to pass a rule banning asbestos, while the chemical industry remains committed to blocking any forthcoming laws.Raw chrysotile asbestos is used exclusively by the chlor-alkali industry at the moment. Theproposed rule, which could become final by late 2023, is opposed by most in the chemical industry, while environmental activists are frustrated by the slow progress in fully banning any kind of asbestos use.

"EPA's two-year timetable could cause immediate hardships including several shortages of chlorine, supply chain disruptions, obstacles to drinking water disinfection processes, dramatic price increases, and broad impacts to economic development opportunities," said the American Chemistry Council.

2021/2022 – a new law for people with mesothelioma involved in lawsuits

October 2022 – ProPublica investigation found severe asbestos exposure at chlor-alkali plant

A ProPublica investigation uncovered the grim reality of asbestos exposure at OxyChem's plant in Niagara Falls, New York. There, asbestos dust lingered in the air, collected on the beams and light fixtures, and built up until it was inches thick. Workers would tramp in and out of it all day, often without protective masks, and carried it around on their coveralls and boots.

May 2022 – the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act is proposed by Senator Jeff Merkley

On May 18, 2022, Senator Jeff Merkley introduced the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act. The goal of this bill is to prohibit the manufacture, process, use, and distribution in commerce of asbestos or any mixture or article containing asbestos. It also requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to publicize the prohibition and offer assistance to those who must comply with it. The Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act would completely ban the use of asbestos if it became law.

April 2022 – the EPA proposed a ban on chrysotile asbestos

The proposed rule of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would prohibit the manufacture, import, processing, distribution in commerce and use of chrysotile asbestos for all ongoing uses of chrysotile asbestos. It claims that, if the rule becomes law, it would protect American workers and families by forbidding ongoing uses of the only known type of asbestos currently imported into the country to address the unreasonable risk it poses to human health.

One month later, the agency released additional data regarding chrysotile asbestos diaphragms used in the chlor-alkali industry and chrysotile asbestos-containing sheet gaskets used in chemical production. The EPA may use the data in developing its final rule, including the proposed chrysotile asbestos prohibition compliance dates for these uses.

The proposed asbestos ban faced industry fight, as chlor-alkali producers insist that it would have unintended consequences on water disinfection and chemical supply chains.“Chlorine is essential in the production of pharmaceuticals, agricultural chemicals, and products like batteries, wind turbines, and solar panels needed to achieve climate and sustainability goals,” said the American Chemistry Council.

A recently amended California law now allows the estates of deceased plaintiffs, including mesothelioma patients, to collect pain and suffering damages. Before this major change, only the person who sustained bodily injury as a result of asbestos exposure could recover pain and suffering damages. These are often the largest sums of money awarded as damages in mesothelioma lawsuits. This law became effective on January 1, 2022.

2020 – a drywall worker who developed mesothelioma received a $13.4 million verdict

In 2020, a drywall worker diagnosed with mesothelioma received a $13.4 million verdict and $75,000 in settlements from a lawsuit filed in Washington state. Drywaller Raymond Budd said he developed the disease from working with multiple asbestos products, including Kaiser Gypsum's asbestos-containing joint compound.

According to a 2021 report, over 3,600 mesothelioma lawsuits were filed in America in 2020.

2018 – a San Francisco jury awarded $24.26 million to a former longshoreman

In 2018, a San Francisco jury awarded $24.26 million to former longshoreman George Lucas, who claimed he developed mesothelioma as a consequence of the occupational asbestos exposure that occurred while he was working at shipyards around San Francisco Bay for nearly 30 years. The man was exposed to asbestos insulation, gaskets, and packing.

2017 – the largest single asbestos verdict in New York history

In 2017, a jury awarded Ed Robaey a whopping $75 million in the largest single asbestos verdict in New York history. The plaintiff claimed he developed mesothelioma from working with asbestos gaskets in car engines.

2016 – a jury awarded a former naval shipyard worker $6.5 million

A jury awarded former naval shipyard worker George Parker $6.5 million in 2016. The jury established that John Crane Inc. was responsible for exposing the plaintiff to asbestos, which led to his mesothelioma diagnosis. Parker worked with gasket materials containing asbestos at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard.

2014 – a California jury awarded $70.8 million to a U.S. Navy machinist

In 2014, a California jury awarded $70.8 million to Robert Whalen, a U.S. Navy machinist, in a mesothelioma lawsuit involving the gasket manufacturer John Crane Inc. The plaintiff claimed he developed mesothelioma from working with the company's asbestos products during his 26-year service in the Navy.

2006 – DaimlerChrysler, ordered to pay $25 million to a former brake specialist

A New York jury ordered DaimlerChrysler to pay $25 million to Alfred D'Ulisse in 2006, a retired police officer who was also a former brake specialist. He claimed he developed mesothelioma from asbestos exposure stemming from the company's automobile brakes.

2003 – U.S. Steel pays $250 million to a former steel worker's spouse

In 2003, U.S. Steel was ordered to pay $250 million to the wife of a former steelworker whose cause of death was mesothelioma. However, the company reached a post-verdict settlement for an undisclosed sum of money that is believed to be considerably less than the trial award.

the 1980s - the 2000s – a wave of asbestos lawsuits hits America, and companies set trust funds

Because increasingly more scientific and medical evidence supporting the fact that asbestos exposure can be deadly was coming to light, major asbestos companies had no other choice but to create trust funds after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. This was after they paid injured workers and their family members millions of dollars in settlements, as a tremendous number of former employees came to struggle with life-threatening diseases such as lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma, a very rare and aggressive cancer that occurs on the outer lining of the lungs.

The average award in a lawsuit involving asbestos exposure was:

  • $6.3 million in 2009
  • $17.6 million in 2010
  • $10.5 million in 2011

As for asbestos trust funds, there are roughly 60 throughout the United States, with a total of $30 billion for people who are going to develop diseases related to occupational asbestos exposure in the future. It is important to note that each asbestos trust fund offers the injured person a percentage of the entire sum of money they are eligible for, depending on the severity of their disease, how many claims the trust has to pay, and the funds the trust currently has.

1968 – it is official: the only cause of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure

In 1968, the British Medical Journal claimed asbestos was the direct cause of most mesothelioma cases. There was still controversy as to what types of asbestos were the most carcinogenic, which is a debate that is still ongoing today. Between 2% and 10% of people who are heavily exposed to asbestos will develop mesothelioma.

December 1966 – the first asbestos lawsuit in the United States

On December 10, 1966, the first asbestos product lawsuit was filed in Beaumont, Texas, by attorney Ward Stephenson. His client, Claude Tomplait, had been diagnosed with asbestosis in July of the same year. The defendants were 11 manufacturers of asbestos-containing insulation, including Johns Manville, Fibreboard, and Owens Corning. The lawsuit went to trial on May 12, 1969, and a week later, the verdict was returned in favor of the defendants.

1964 – breakthrough American study on the health effects of asbestos exposure

American physician Dr. Irving J. Selikoff presented his discoveries at the 1964 Biological Effects of Asbestos conference, sponsored by the New York Academy of Science. For over a year, the medical professional had examined more than 1,000 workers from the Union Asbestos & Rubber Company plant in Patterson, New Jersey.

He found the mortality rate among these employees to be 25% higher than statistically expected. The workers would die from a variety of diseases, such as asbestosis and lung cancer, but also stomach and colorectal cancer.

the 1920s - the 1980s – companies strive to keep the dangers of asbestos exposure a secret

Since the 1920s, more and more industries in America, such as construction, power generating, electrical, and oil refining, began using asbestos as a raw material. This was because the mineral had numerous convenient properties, including resistance to extreme temperatures, durability, and inability to conduct electricity, and because it was quite cheap to purchase.

However, the companies using asbestos, such as Johns Manville and Raybestos, had been aware since the very beginning that exposure to asbestos fibers by inhalation or ingestion can result in terrible diseases such as lung cancer. Yet, they did not provide their workers with any protective equipment and went above and beyond to keep this information hidden from everyone.

The following are only some of the most outrageous excerpts that came to light after the 1980s when asbestos manufacturers could no longer hide the carcinogenic nature of asbestos:

  • In 1949, Dr. Kenneth Smith informed Lewis H. Brown, John Manville's president, that the X-rays of seven asbestos mill workers showed visible signs of asbestosis. Nevertheless, the latter advised Brown not to let the employees know about their condition, stating that "As long as the man is not disabled, it is felt that he should not be told of his condition so that he can live and work in peace, and the company can benefit from his many years of experience." One of the best examples of utmost indifference towards the health of employees can be found in a 1966 letter to Johns Manville from Ernie Martin, the director of purchases of Bendix Corporation. Referring to the worsening asbestos epidemic in the country, he offered what he thought to be the perfect solution, writing, "My answer to the problem is: if you have enjoyed a good life while working with asbestos products why not die from it. There's got to be some cause."

1900 – the first study finding asbestos fibers in the lungs of a worker

In 1899, Dr. H. Montague Murray began studying the negative health effects of asbestos exposure. His first study was conducted at the Charing Cross Hospital, London, in 1900. During it, a postmortem investigation revealed asbestos traces in the lungs of a young man whose cause of death was pulmonary fibrosis. He had been working for 14 years in a textile mill that used asbestos.