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History of Asbestos in Buildings

case_leg_infoavailableA building materials manufacturer, who once produced an asbestos-containing fireproofing product, wanted to know when owners and managers of buildings would have become aware that there was an issue with asbestos in fireproofing.  We had previously produced a history about the development of knowledge regarding the health effects, particularly cancer, that was associated with occupational disturbances of asbestos-containing materials.  We were asked to extend this history to include owners and managers of steel frame buildings with spray fireproofing.

This history built on earlier work we had done chronicling the development of knowledge about the health effects of asbestos among medical and public health professionals.  We now wanted to know how long it took for this information to reach medical laypeople, including the people managing buildings.  In the earlier history we reviewed the information sources where the medical community discussed asbestos, such as peer reviewed papers, journals, conference proceedings and the dockets on regulatory rulemaking.  For this history, we researched the popular literature that contained the public discourse about asbestos, including newspapers, books, government regulations and publications, magazine articles, radio and television reports, and trade journals for building managers to find out how long it took the information known to the medical community to reach the public.  We were aided in developing this history by the fact that the firm’s principal, Roger Morse, had been actively practicing as an asbestos consultant to building owners with asbestos-containing fireproofing during the relevant period of time.

We prepared a report summarizing our findings about information available to U.S. building owners and managers about asbestos in buildings during the relevant time period. Following completion of the U.S. research project and report, we were commissioned to conduct a similar study relating to building owners in Canada, and prepared a report summarizing these findings as well.