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Use of Asbestos in the 1960s Creates Current Mesothelioma Epidemic

Millions of people were exposed to asbestos in the 1960s, when asbestos use was just beginning to hit its highest point and the dangers were not yet known to the general public. Because many workers exposed to asbestos fibers in the 1960s were in their 20s and 30s, these people are now being diagnosed with asbestosis and mesothelioma in record numbers.

Many of these patients are now in their sixties and have to face grueling medical treatments or surgery just when they were looking forward to retiring and enjoying the rewards of years of hard work. Unfortunately many of them don’t survive to spend a few years of retirement because the latency of mesothelioma takes them by surprise; forty years or more after they were exposed to asbestos dust in the 1960s they begin paying a huge price.

Asbestos in the 1960s Could be Found Anywhere

Asbestos in the 1960s - Asbestos sandstone in a condemned university building Those who were exposed to asbestos fibers in the 1960s worked in a wide variety of industries. In fact, there was such a variety of asbestos use that almost every manufacturing or construction worker in the 1960s was exposed at some point. Two very popular uses for asbestos in the 1960s was the manufacture of insulating board and spray coatings for structural steel. Insulating board was made of such high levels of asbestos that some of these sheets of insulation were anywhere from 20%-45% pure asbestos! Home builders and remodelers were breathing incredibly toxic insulating board dust daily. During the 1960s asbestos insulating board was one of the most popular components of new home construction.

Spray coatings of asbestos were also used to coat the structural steel of high rises, apartment complexes and even parking garages. The asbestos improved the fire and heat tolerances of the buildings’ frameworks and was an essential safety feature of elevator shafts built in the 1960s. (Also see "History of Asbestos - a History of Problems")

Railroad Workers at Risk

But the greatest health risk of all from asbestos used in the 1960s is the risk to former railroad workers. Steam locomotives were still in use quite heavily in the 1960s and the inside and outside of the engines, including all steam pipe insulation, was coated in “lagging,” or asbestos. These individuals were essentially surrounded on all sides in what were asbestos boxes for hours every day that they worked. The heat of the steam engine aggravated the problem.

Ironically, the use of asbestos in the 1960s, which was meant to protect individuals from fire, is now the culprit in an entirely new health crisis.

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