Mesothelioma and asbestos were first linked in the early 1930’s by an English pathologist. The first academic paper examining the connection between asbestos exposure and mesothelioma was written and published a decade later by German scholar H.W. Wedler. He found that 20% of German asbestos workers developed cancers, including mesothelioma.
By the 1950s, more studies revealed connections between asbestos, respiratory illness, and cancer. During the next two decades, further studies confirmed the connection between asbestos exposure among U.S. workers and cancer, particularly mesothelioma.
The first legal victory requiring manufacturers to warn workers of asbestos risks occurred in 1969. It wasn’t until the 1970s, that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared asbestos a hazardous pollutant, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration set standards for workplace exposure to asbestos. In 1989 the EPA banned the use of asbestos in new materials.
Until the mid-1970s, when the health risks associated with the use of asbestos could no longer be easily ignored by industry, asbestos was widely utilized by various industries. The automotive, construction, and shipbuilding industries, among others, relied on asbestos for a variety of uses. And some asbestos-containing materials still remain in buildings, ships, and automobiles to this day.
Examples of asbestos-containing products frequently utilized before 1975 include:
There is currently no cure for mesothelioma. However, like many other cancers, mesothelioma is treatable. Treatments such as medication, surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation may alleviate symptoms and slow the progression of the cancer.
Researchers continue to study different treatments in order to improve patient outcomes. New treatments such as gene therapy and immunotherapy may improve the prognosis and quality of life for patients with mesothelioma.