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.


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