In 1899, Dr. H.M. Murray performed an autopsy on an asbestos worker who died in his mid thirties. This man was the tenth individual in his work area to die at a young age due to a breathing impairment. Dr. Murray noted that the man had interstitial fibrosis and “curious bodies” in his lungs. In 1907, Dr. Murray published these findings.
Let’s put things in perspective. In 1907, asbestos was still a relatively new substance. Ten young men who worked with it all died of a mysterious respiratory problem that had never been seen before. Shouldn’t that have raised a few red flags? Perhaps in some circles it did. But those who ran asbestos companies had little interest in providing protection for asbestos workers because doing so would have implied to customers that asbestos was unsafe.
The law terms the attitude of asbestos executives as conscious indifference. They knew that asbestos was killing workers, yet they didn’t care. Perhaps nothing illustrates the dark nature of greed more than the story of asbestos. Yet some of these same individuals who literally killed their workers for money complained of the greed of those who file asbestos lawsuits. There might not have been any asbestos lawyers or lawsuits if asbestos companies had put safety ahead of profits.
The citation for Dr. Murray’s report is: Murray, H.M., 1907. Statement before the committee in the minutes of evidence. In: Report of the Departmental Committee on Compensation for Industrial Disease. London: H.M. Stationery Office, P.127.