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July 6, 1984

Asbestos: An Industrial Asset With a Health Cost

Author Affiliations

Dr Barclay is editor emeritus of JAMA.

JAMA. 1984;252(1):96. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03350010062028

Asbestos is a useful, even indispensable component of. many materials with which we come into daily contact. It has unique properties of heat resistance and durability and is cheap and abundant. Unfortunately, it is a serious threat to the health of those who handle it carelessly over a long period of time, and its dangers went unrecognized for many years after it was put into widespread use.

The first ill effect to be recognized in asbestos workers was pulmonary fibrosis, termed asbestosis, and between 1906 and 1928, sporadic case reports of asbestosis appeared in the medical literature. These reports stimulated the Ministry of Labour in Great Britain to undertake a detailed study of asbestos workers. Merewether and Price1 reported this study in 1930, and, of 363 asbestos textile workers examined, 26.2% were found to have roentgenographic evidence of pulmonary fibrosis. In 1937, the Public Health Service undertook a similar