Known for its ability to withstand fire and high temperatures, asbestos was – for decades – traditionally used in applications such as insulation for equipment where excessive heat was present. It is believed that because of these properties, asbestos saved many lives. However, it also created myriad health problems.
Individuals who worked on board ships, particularly those built around World War II, were especially susceptible to developing asbestos cancer such as mesothelioma. They used a variety of asbestos-containing products such as rope packing, which was used as a mechanical packing for equipment such as pumps, valves, and gaskets. It was also used in the food industry on equipment including mixers and agitators. The rope packing was able to withstand very high temperatures and was thus successful in helping avoid dangerous situations.
But while fires were avoided, unknowing workers who were exposed to asbestos-containing rope packing faced other dangers. Loose asbestos fibers from cut or damaged rope packing were often released during work with the insulating material. This dust was easily inhaled by workers. The result, many years later, was the formation of serious asbestos diseases – diseases that offer little hope for a normal life.
Today, rope packing is still used but it is now asbestos-free so it no longer presents a health hazard. Unfortunately, the banning of the use of asbestos in rope packing came too late for many who worked with the packing while the mineral was used as a component in its manufacture. Those individuals are now faced with the possibility of developing mesothelioma. Some have already been diagnosed with the disease.
Not everyone who is exposed to asbestos fibers will develop the disease and doctors are hard-pressed to understand while some individuals are more prone to developing mesothelioma than others. However, those stricken with mesothelioma have little hope for a cure and even today’s treatments – though they are improving – offer little relief from the disease, which causes chest pain, difficulty breathing, and many other debilitating symptoms.
A look back at the 20th century’s booming asbestos industry has also revealed that many manufacturing executives knew about the dangers of asbestos yet allowed its use to continue. Because of this cover-up, many unnecessary cases of mesothelioma developed and many individuals died.
If you once worked with rope packing and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, it is essential to take time to learn of your legal rights. An asbestos attorney can help you determine your right to compensation. For more information, order our comprehensive mesothelioma resource packet.
Last modified: December 28, 2010.