History of Mesothelioma:
Asbestos Industry Reacts to Mesothelioma Research
The published paper caused a firestorm. A study was then funded by the South African asbestos industry and to a lesser extent by the South African cancer society. This study, started in 1960, had a preliminary report published in October 1962. The report showed that an alarmingly high number of malignant mesothelioma cases had been discovered in persons living around or working in the asbestos mines. It was clear that the residents of mining towns were contracting asbestosis and mesothelioma from environmental asbestos exposure.
The mining industry was disturbed by these findings. Instead of closing the mines or investigating safer mining techniques, industry officials attacked the report and blocked the public release of the data. They also placed extreme political pressure on the researchers who published the report. In fact, Chris Wagner came under such intense pressure, that he left South Africa for a university in Britain, never to return to mesothelioma research.
The industry was effective in their campaign, and no research into the connection between mesothelioma and asbestos was undertaken in the South African mining towns for another 20 years. This strategy allowed the mining companies to have record sales volumes of amphibole fiber during the 1960s and 1970s.
Now, most asbestos mines around the world are closed.
[Page updated July 2005]