For more than 100 years, asbestos has been used in building products, shipyards, and factories. It has been an airborne presence affecting millions of workers. Even those who do not work in an area where asbestos fibers are found can be affected by fibers brought home on clothing by other family members. With a latency period of 20 to 50 years, asbestos is the cause of diseases such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer many years after the initial exposure. It is estimated that as many as 21 million workers have been exposed to asbestos in the workplace in the last 50 years and nearly 3,000 new cases of disease attributable to asbestos exposure are diagnosed each year.
Claims of damage related to asbestos exposure were filed as early as 1929, when the dangers of such exposure were first noted. Since then, hundreds of suits have been filed against the manufacturers of asbestos products, charging negligence, design defect, and failure to warn, and millions of dollars have been awarded in damages.