FACT ACT: A chance to be victimized again

Legislation in Congress would require public disclosure of private information of those suffering from asbestos-related illness

The history of asbestos and asbestos litigation in the U.S. is not inspiring. Asbestos was an extremely useful mineral. Material made with this mineral could be fireproof and insulating. It worked itself into virtually every nook and cranny of life in the 20th century, from brake shoes and steam pipe insulation on Navy ships to firefighter's suits and even into ordinary kitchens, in the form of potholders.

Against this backdrop of banal normality, there was a problem. One that the industry has known of for 100 years or more. Airborne dust containing the microscopic fibers of asbestos was being inhaled by miners, workers in processing factories and by those who worked with the material in its end products.

Depending on their exposure to this material, they began developing diseases often of the lung, that made breathing difficult and eventually it began killing its victims. Asbestosis and Mesothelioma were the two most common.

Asbestos companies protected some of their employees

Some employers recognized the risk, and worked to some degree to reduce the risk to their own workers. After all, sick workers both reduced the productivity of the plant and could become an expensive health problem for the employer.

Most of the time, those who purchased items manufactured and contaminated with asbestos were never told of the risks. That might hurt sales and profits.

However, like all cover-ups, word began to get out as to the risk of being exposed to asbestos. Sadly, it was too often in the body count of towns and cities near processing plants or mines. By the 1960s, it was clear there was a serious public health threat posed by this mineral.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began efforts to regulate the material, and the industry vigorously fought back, defending its right to poison millions with the continuing production and sale of asbestos-containing materials.

Asbestos exposure becomes the first mass tort

The scale and magnitude of the death and destruction caused by the asbestos industry led to the first modern mass tort cases, which led to the bankruptcy of many of the companies responsible for the horrific illnesses caused by asbestos.

The settlement of these cases led to the creation of the asbestos trusts, which are responsible for paying damages to those who fall ill and the many that die from mesothelioma.

The industry, however, has never stopped fighting a rear-guard action, as it attempts to deflect attention from their responsibility for knowingly poisoning millions of innocent workers and their families.

The most recent example of this shameless behavior is Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act of 2015 (FACT Act). This bill, if it became law, would require the disclosure of significant amounts of personal informative of those who have been victimized once by contracting diseases like mesothelioma, and now, by submitting a claim to one of the asbestos trusts, could be victimized a second time by opportunists who troll for this kind of data to further their identity-theft schemes.

When discussing alleged dishonesty of the victims of asbestos industry, it is important to remember that the original dishonesty was that of attempting to profit from use of this inherently dangerous material.