© 2024 KENW
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Short-term miracle, long-term nightmare

Tease: Short-term miracle, long-term nightmare


Intro: Welcome to “Dumb Ideas that Changed the World.” The views expressed are solely those of the host and do not reflect the opinions of this station or its funders.


In the previous century, progress was king. Living standards rose nearly everywhere, led by manufacturing. A key innovation during the worldwide economic boom was asbestos. Dr. Peter Bartrip says this “magic mineral” is lightweight, indestructible, and cheap. Because asbestos doesn’t burn, it was a safety miracle for fireproofing and insulation in building construction, transportation, and more. Asbestos was everywhere.


Unfortunately, it also had a dark side, in the form of a deadly trifecta. Its fibers severely scar human lungs, a disease called asbestosis. Worse yet are lung cancer and mesothelioma, an otherwise rare cancer that usually affects the lungs as well. Long-term survival is rare, and all three diseases are insidious: taking 20-or-more years before symptoms develop. Dr. Bartrip says even brief exposure to asbestos dust can be a death sentence long after. In time, this safety breakthrough became a worldwide safety disaster.


Compounding matters was the fact that industry knew of the hazards early on. The first peer-reviewed article on asbestosis was published a century ago, in 1924. By the mid-1960s, its link to lung cancer and mesothelioma was clear. But the world’s leading manufacturer hid the risks into the 1970s. A plethora of lawsuits led to its bankruptcy and reorganization in 1982, while other companies simply folded. Johns Manville admitted wrongdoing and no longer mines or uses asbestos.


Long after asbestos was banned or strictly regulated, these lung diseases take an estimated quarter-million lives each year. And asbestos abatement costs the world economy billions of dollars. How tragic that this miracle in the short term would become such a nightmare in the long term.


I’m Jeff Gentry


(If underwritten, ask announcer to acknowledge it here)


Best reference:

P W J Bartrip, History of asbestos related disease, Postgraduate Medical Journal, Volume 80, Issue 940, February 2004, Pages 72-76, https://doi.org/10.1136/pmj.2003.012526



Dumb Ideas that Changed the World copyright 2024 by Jeff Gentry. All rights reserved.

Host of Dumb Ideas the Changed the World
Related Content
  • Host of Dumb Ideas the Changed the World
  • Join ENMU’s Jeff Gentry each week on "Dumb Ideas that Changed the World" as he uncovers some of the most important brain cramps of all time. "Dumb Ideas that Changed the World" airs on Wednesdays at about 12:45 p.m. MT on KENW-FM.This program is also available online by clicking the title of an individual episode listed below. Please send any comments or show ideas in an email to Por.Dumbideas@enmu.edu.Explore the fascinating and often surprising blunders made by influential people who should have known better. Tune in to "Dumb Ideas that Changed the World" and feel a little better about your personal cognitive function!
  • History