GREEK GEOGRAPHER Strabo and the Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder both noted that slaves weaving asbestos into cloth often developed a fatal sickness in the lungs. They were among the first to identify asbestosis, a lung disease caused by inhaling the fine fibers and particles of asbestos.

Johns-Manville, one of the modern companies using asbestos, began in 1858 as the H. W. Johns Manufacturing Company, founded on the principal use of asbestos as a fire-resistant roofing material. In 1901, the company added new asbestos products, including asbestos cement.

By the early 1930s, asbestos workers stricken with asbestosis were bringing damage suits against Johns-Manville, now the largest asbestos manufacturer in the country, and against other leading asbestos manufacturers. These manufacturers created a cover-up of the asbestos hazard that ...

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