[Skip to Content]
Sign In
Individual Sign In
Create an Account
Institutional Sign In
OpenAthens Shibboleth
Purchase Options:
[Skip to Content Landing]
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

Merewether ERA, Price CW: Report on the Effect of Asbestos Dust on the Lungs and Dust Suppression in the Asbestos Industry: Occurrence of Pulmonary Fibrosis and Other Pulmonary Affections in Asbestos Workers. London, H. M. Stationary Office, 1930.
Dressen WC, Dalla-Valle JM, Edwards TJ, et al:  A study of asbestosis in the asbestos textile industry .  Public Health Bull , 1938.
Lynch KM, Smith WA:  Pulmonary asbestosis: III. Carcinoma of the lung on asbestosis-silicosis .  Am J Cancer 1935;14:56-64.
Gloyne SR:  Two cases of squamous carcinoma of the lung occurring in asbestosis .  Tubercle 1935;17:5-10.Crossref
Merewether ERA, Price CW: Annual Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories in England 1947. London, H. M. Stationary Office, 1947.
Doll R:  Mortality from lung cancer in asbestos workers .  Br I Ind Med 1955;12:81-86.
Selikoff IJ, Churg J, Hammond EC:  Asbestos exposure and neoplasia .  JAMA 1964;188:22-26.Crossref