Medical Timeline

Provided below is a timeline of key developments and milestones that occurred in the history of mesothelioma, an asbestos related disease from a medical perspective. We hope that you will find this information useful.

Year Author Description of Text
1879 insulation material and products containing asbestos are manufactured for commercial use.
1898 British factory safety inspectors express concern about the “evil effects” of asbestos dust.
1899 Murray abstract entitled “Curious Bodies” describes the first reported case of asbestosis
1900 Asbestos recognized as a cause of occupational disease (asbestosis) in Charing Cross Hospital, London. A presumptive connection is established.
1906 Auribault Asbestos fibers found to be a contributing factor in the deaths of 50 people; First instance of asbestos-related lung disease identified.
1906 British Parliamentary Commission confirms first cases of asbestos deaths in factories, recommends better ventilation and other safety measures.
1911 Royal Commission into working conditions in gold mines in Australia reveals widespread lung disease. Ventilation laws introduced.
1918 Insurance companies, including Prudential, refuse to sell insurance to asbestos workers.
1918 Prudential Insurance Company in the US produces an actuarial study showing premature death in the asbestos industry. Other companies begin increasing premiums and refusing insurance.
1918 Hoffman United States Dept of Labor publication reports – “urgent need for more extensive investigation….”
1922 U.S. Navy lists asbestos work as hazardous and recommends the use of respirators.
1924 Asbestos is established as a definitive cause of death from lung scarring.
1926 First successful claim for compensation by a sick asbestos worker to the Massachuetts Industrial Accidents Board. Over the following three years several hundred further claims filed.
1924-27 Cooke The first case of “asbestosis” is documented in British Literature.
1927 Asbestosis given its name.
1927 The name “asbestosis” is applied to lung scarring caused by asbestos. Massachusetts awards disability payments to individuals affected by occupational lung disease. Over the next 40 years, other states come to recognize asbestosis as a compensable disease.
1928-29 Seiller; Haddow Report indicated that four deceased individuals were age 41, on average, at the time of death
1920-29 More than 25 asbestos related articles are published
1929 Workers begin suing Johns Manville for damages from disability caused by asbestos exposure.
1929 Johns Manville Corporation, the world’s largest asbestos mine/manufacturer served with 11 writs by asbestos victims. Claims settled out of court with secrecy order.
1930 The Merewether Report published by the British factory inspectorate spread knowledge of the danger of asbestosis around the world.
1930 Mereweather & Price Out of 363 asbestos textile mill workers 26% (95) were diagnosed with asbestosis; length and level of exposure are considered factors in developing the disease.
1930 International Labor Office, Geneva Encyclopedia, Occupation & Health “more accurate and thorough research must become available in medical literature as it pertains to industries that utilize asbestos containing products. More and more industries are using asbestos so there is an increased sense of urgency with which we must act.”
1930 British Home Office Survey finds widespread asbestos disease in UK factories.
1930-31 Soper; Panacost & Pendergrass The mesothelioma latency period is found to be long. Disease may not develop for up to 25 years after exposure stops. The disease will continue to progress despite discontinued exposure.
1931 Lynch & Smith 172 documented medical cases are found in publications
1931 Wood & Gloyne Working with asbestos laden insulation even in a “sawyer” occupation can lead to Asbestosis
1931 In the UK, Parliament requires dust control measures in asbestos textile factories and allows workers to receive compensation for asbestosis. “Safe” level is established as conditions such that no more than one in three workers will get asbestosis after 15-19 years work exposure.
1933 Ellman First documented case of asbestosis found in a U.S. insulation worker
1933 Donnelly Even brief exposure to asbestos can be considered an industrial hazard. Chemical plants, power plants and other asbestos jobsites do not offer adequate protection against asbestos exposure to workers.
1933-34 Mereweather Workers in mills and manufacturing plant face grave risk and almost certain death due to asbestos exposure.
1934 Wood & Gloyne Initial 100 cases of asbestosis are reviewed including individuals who worked outdoors, in an office and one who was a boiler-riveter. Two cases involved fatal lung cancer.
1935 Lanza 126 people who worked in either U.S. mines or mills were randomly selected to take a physical exam. All had in excess of three years exposure to dust. 67 individuals were found to have asbestosis.
1934-35 Dept. of Labor, Commonwealth of Penn. Special Bulletin I, II & III Published bibliography references 125 articles. Clear correlation between dust measurement and incidence of asbestos cancer identified (8% disease at 5 mppcf, 22% at 17mppcf, 57% at 44 mppcf); 25% survival rate identified for asbestosis victims.
1935 Lynch & Smith First instances of lung cancer and asbestosis in the U.S. were documented.
1935 Inspector of Factories and Shops in Western Australia reports on the effect of asbestos dust on the lungs of workers in the James Hardie Factory in Perth.
1936 Donnelly Asbestosis becoming a more serious issue for workers. Work hazards are not being sufficiently addressed. 34% of workers are developing life threatening illness; The more workers exposed, the more reported cases of asbestosis seen.
1936 Lang Hancock ‘discovers’ the Wittenoom blue asbestos (crocidolite) deposits and later begins pick and shovel mining.
1936-38 Egbert; Nordmann, British Factory Inspectorate Report More instances of lung cancer seen in asbestosis-related illness.
1938 Dreessen U.S.P.H.S. study — Until further research is conducted, the maximum dust level value is established at 5 mppcf
1938 Lanza The British implement 1931 regulations to manufacturing facilities and mills where asbestos containing products were made or sold.
1938 CSR Limited send Senior Executive, MG King to the US, Canada, South Africa and Europe to study asbestos mining and manufacturing. It is the start of regular contact between CSR and Johns Manville, including further overseas trips between 1947 and 1952.
US adopt a “safe” dust limit of 176 particles of asbestos per cubic centimetre in the workplace.
German researchers identify six cancer deaths among asbestos textile works. Later animal studies confirm asbestos dust kills mice.
1930-39 More than 150 articles are published
1939 Western Australian Commissioner of Public Health and Chief Inspector of Factories find respiratory disorders amoung James Hardie workers.
1940 Hancock begins mining at Wittenoom. Plant opens in 1943 and CSR takes over in 1948.
1941 Kuhn German shipyard work performing insulation duties develops asbestosis and is compensated with disability money.
1942 Holleb Two insulation workers develop lung cancer.
1942 Hueper A published book that examines tumors that have links to certain occupational work suggesting that lung cancer is linked to asbestos exposure on the job.
1942 Asbestosis and lung cancer are considered diseases for which workers are entitled to compensation in Germany.
1943 Hueper Workers need to be better educated on the occupational risks of asbestos exposure and links to lung cancer with asbestosis.
1943 Welder First pleural mesothelioma case reported
1943 Sarnac Laboratory in New York confirms the link between asnestos and cancer. John Manville suppresses the report.

A report on an asbestos mill at Zeehan in Tasmania (owned and operated by a CSR subsidiary) says that asbestos dust is a health hazard and discusses methods of eliminating it.

1944 First warning of asbestos dust at Wittenoom – the WA Assistant State Mining Engineer reports on the danger of dust being generated. Mines inspector Adams reports on the “dust menace” at Wittenoom and discusses the need to reduce dust levels.
1946 Fleischer 3 shipyards are examined by the U.S. Navy. It was noted that elevated dust levels existed when cutting, sawing and mixing asbestos products; asbestos disease likely in workers who perform these functions; 3 instances of asbestosis identified out of 51 men with more than 10 years time working in the shipyards.
1946 ACGIH Updated a list of MAC values to reflect 5 mppcf (known as TLVs beginning in 1949)
1946 The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) establishes a maximum acceptable concentration (MAC) in 1946 of 5 million particles per cubic foot (mppcf) for occupational exposure.
1946 Known asbestos death toll reaches 235 in Britain, 16 in France and 30 in Italy.

Wittenoom mine manager writes to head office about first known asbestosis case – a man named Dignam.

Mines Department Inspector Adams describes dust conditions at Wittenoom as “terrific”

1947 Mereweather 13% of individuals (31/235)who died of asbestosis were examined during autopsy and found to have lung cancer. Only 1% of lung cancer cases were found in silicotics.
1948 The 5 mppcf MAC was changed to a threshold limit value (TLV) of an average concentration over an 8-hour day, referred to as an 8-hour, time-weighted average.
1948 Dr Eric Saint tells Wittenoom mine management that asbestos is extremely dangerous and that men exposed would contract chest disease inside six months. He writes to the Public Health Department in Perth that the mine will produce the greatest crop of asbestosis the world has ever seen.

Over the following three years, dust levels at the mine and mill are regularly monitored at six to eight times “safe levels”. Further warnings are given to mine management. No improvement in conditions is noted.

1949 AMA Editorial Spotlight attention needed on the increasing rates of occupational related cancer deaths.
1940-49 More than 50 new articles published
1950 WA Commissioner for Public Health report to his Minister that “Asbestos dust, if inhaled, constitutes a very grave risk and is, if anything, worse than silicosis”.

State Mining Engineer reports insufficient attention to safety regulations and ventilation at Wittenoom.

1951 WA has adopted a “safe” dust limit of 176 particles per cubic centimetre. Wittenoom readings continually off the scale at 1000 particles. Mines and Health Department take no action apart from issuing further warnings.

Commissioner for Public Health writes to the Under Secretary for Mines that “The hazard from asbestos is considerably greater than that from silica…we have reason to believe that attention to this aspect of mining operations at Wittenoom has been inadequate in the past.”

1951 1949 Factory Inspectorate Report (Great Britain) Discusses the need for workers to be aware of potential risks associated with using burlap packaging in factories.
1953 Weiss First documented case of mesothelioma in an insulation worker
1954 Mines Inspector Ibbotson describes conditions at Wittenoom as a “disgrace”. The following year he threatens to close the mine.
1955 Doll Textile workers with more than twenty years asbestos exposure found to have high mortality rate. Out of 113 textile employees, 39 people died. 11 had lung cancer
1955 McLaughlin Great Britain seeing an increase in the reported number of cases of asbestosis especially among insulation workers
1955 Schepers Documentation showing a link between asbestosis in animals and exposure to products that contain asbestos.
1955 The report of the epidemiologist Sir Richard Doll established conclusively that asbestos fibres caused lung cancer.
1956 Frost 22 out of 31 workers in Denmark with over 20 years experience have abnormal medical conditions after working with insulation products.
1958 Van Der Shoot Insulation work in a Dutch refinery develops Pleural mesothelioma.
1950-59 More than 125 publications
1960 Wagner Strong correlation between mesothelioma and occupational or environmental asbestos exposure. 32 out of 33 people diagnosed with mesothelioma were exposed to asbestos.
1960 Kiviluoto Mine and mill worker showing higher incidence of pleural calcifications.
1960-63 Eisenstadt, Wilson, McCaughey, Wade, Elmes, Castleman, Kibbee Documented case profiles of workers in the US and Great Britain that developed mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos on the job.
1963 Mancuso Asbestos plant workers in the U.S. show higher death rates.
1964 Marr 6 shipyard workers developed asbestosis; industrial study conducted to review dust levels – found some instances where levels exceeded TLV. Work environment appeared excessively dusty during sawing operations.
1964 Selikoff Review of insulation workers with occupational asbestos exposure uncovers links to excessive asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma fatalities. Review looks at 1,117 workers.
1965 Newhouse 9 instances of Mesothelioma diagnosis in family members of asbestos workers who received second hand exposure.
1965 McVittie Insulation workers in reported 41% of new asbestosis cases between 1955 and 1963; 21% worked in textile industries.
1960-69 More than 200 publications