Starting in the late 1800s, many companies used asbestos in a variety of applications because of its heat resistance, relatively strong fibers, and its relatively cheap cost. One common use for this mineral was as a lightweight protective packing material when shipping various items. Because the packages were often jostled in transit, it was extremely easy for the material to shed small amounts of its dangerous fibers, creating a dust that was easily inhaled by packers and those opening delivered items.
Asbestos was regularly used in many materials up until the late 1970s, when the government started to issue warnings about the potential health issues involved in exposure to asbestos. Today’s packing materials are comparatively safe and consist mostly of paper, cardboard, Styrofoam, and biodegradable corn starch. These materials can be handled even broken or damaged without any concern.
Even before the government issued warnings about the possible health issues, leaders of some industries were aware of them yet continued to use the dangerous product in many things packing material included. Because there were some reasonable substitutes available at the time, many workers and individuals were unnecessarily exposed to the possibility of lung cancer and disease.
Experts today are discovering the link between many cases of mesothelioma, lung disease, and lung cancer and past exposure to products containing asbestos. Many of these cases could have been avoided if industry leaders were honest about the things they knew and stopped exposing their workers and the public to such dangerous material. Fortunately many involved in the cover up are beginning to pay for what they have done and financial restitution is coming to those affected.