Anderson Notes that Asbestos Work Is a Dangerous Trade

In 1902, the book Dangerous Trades was published and included some information about the dangers of working with asbestos. The excerpt below shows that experts in 1902 regarded asbestos as dangerous… but so did experts in ancient Rome:

“In the great civilisations of antiquity, whether in the East,West, or in Europe generaIly, there was sufficient concentration of the forces of labour to produce the intensest forms of the maladies classed by Pliny as the “diseases of slaves.”

Some of the most injurious processes known to us now are extremely ancient. To mention but a few: lead and quicksilver mining, the potters’ craft, and the textile processes of preparing and weaving asbestos and flax.”

The entire “state of the art” defense is predicated on the notion that asbestos companies didn’t learn until the mid 1960’s that asbestos could be dangerous. That is a demonstrably false argument; Pliny the Younger wrote in approximately 110 A.D. that slaves who worked in asbestos mines tended to die young. By 1902, the scientific community recognized that asbestos was dangerous enough that asbestos work was classified as a “Dangerous Trade.”

The proper citation is: Anderson, A.M. 1902. Historical sketch of the development of legislation for injurious and dangerous industries in England. In: Oliver, T. (ed.) Dangerous Trades. New York, Dutton.


5 out of 40 asbestos workers died

In 1911, Dr. Collis described the experiences of a factory in which asbestos mattresses were made:

Asbestos. – Following up information received from the Registrar-General, it was found that five deaths of persons suffering from pthisis [A type of tuberculosis.] had occurred in five years among a staff of under 40 workers employed at a factory where asbestos is woven. The process, which appeared most dangerous, is the production of asbestos mattresses. These mattresses which are composed of bags of woven asbestos filled with short asbestos fiber, are placed on a table and beaten out flat by a man with a wooden flail when process much dust arises.

Five deaths out of 40 people in five years. Again, another early warning sign that asbestos dust kills. Early reports such as this are used in asbestos and mesothelioma lawsuits to counteract the state-of-the-art defense.

This citation for this article is: Collis, 1911. Dusty Processes. In: Factories and Workshops: Annual Report For 1910. Great Britain.