Since the beginning of the twentieth century, modern medical authorities have recognized the toxic properties of asbestos. At some point between 1956 and 1960, companies involved in the marketing of asbestos products should have been aware of the risk of serious disease posed to household members by exposure to asbestos-contaminated clothing. The diseases most commonly associated with asbestos exposure include mesothelioma and lung cancer.
Industrial hygiene authorities have been well aware since the mid-1930s that disease-producing contaminants brought home on the clothes of asbestos-exposed workers would pose a risk of serious harm to members of their households engaged in laundering workers’ contaminated clothing.
By the mid-1950s, international authorities on occupational medicine had established not only that asbestos was an extremely toxic substance capable of spreading and contaminating surfaces, including clothing, hair and footwear, but also that it was a powerful lung carcinogen. By the mid-1950s, it was reasonable to anticipate that this powerful carcinogen could be deposited by a contaminated worker into his home environment, unless appropriate sanitary measures were implemented to prevent the spread of the dust.
In 1960, a pathologist firmly established the risk of serious disease to the members of a worker's household from exposure to asbestos dust. This article, published in the British Journal of Industrial Medicine, documents thirty-three malignant mesothelioma tumors. The cases reported included a 56-year-old female social worker with a short childhood exposure to asbestos and a further slight exposure as a young woman; a 42-year-old housewife who lived near an asbestos mine; a 32-year-old male accountant who spent his early childhood in an asbestos mining district; and others whose exposure can best be characterized as household or environmental in nature.
The next major study documenting the occurrence of mesothelioma among household members was published in 1965, and it found mesothelioma in twenty persons in the London area who had only household or environmental asbestos exposure. This study reconfirmed what was, in effect, already confirmed five years earlier by the pathologist.
Manufacturers and distributors of asbestos-containing products could reasonably have anticipated the occurrence of cancer among household members at some point during the period between 1956 and 1960 upon the common knowledge at the time concerning the physical characteristics of asbestos dust, including its aerodynamic qualities, and upon the published literature regarding industrial hygiene, in general, and asbestos disease, in particular.