Anyone who watched an older building being torn down or remodeled in recent years will have become familiar with the sight of workers performing asbestos testing and remediation. Buildings constructed in the middle part of the 20th century very commonly used asbestos in a variety of building materials because of its fireproofing performance. It was also used as fireproofing material in a number of other industries, such as shipbuilding, beginning early in the 20th Century, but becoming increasingly prevalent from the 1940s forward.
Malignant mesothelioma is a relatively rare form of cancer that appears most commonly in the pleural lining between the lungs and the chest wall. Only in recent decades has the strong connection between most pleural mesotheliomas and workplace exposure to asbestos become well-established and recognized. Although cancer in the pleural lining had occasionally been observed and described by doctors for hundreds of years, it wasn’t until the early 1900s that doctors began to recognize these as “primary” cancers — that is, cancers originating actually in the lungs, rather than spreading as “secondary” tumors from cancers beginning in other locations.