Roman historian Pliny notes that slaves wearing asbestos cloth sicken and die. Describes the use of respirators made from animal bladders.
British factory safety inspectors express concern about the “evil effects” of asbestos dust.
British Parliamentary Commission confirms first cases of asbestos deaths in factories recommends better ventilation and other safety measures.
Royal Commission into working conditions in gold mines in Australia reveals widespread lung disease. Ventilation laws introduced.
Prudential Insurance Company in the US produces an actuarial study showing premature death in the asbestos industry. Other companies begin increasing premiums and refusing insurance.
First successful claim for compensation by a sick asbestos worker to the Massachusetts Industrial Accidents Board. Over the following three years several hundred further claims filed.
Asbestosis given its name
Johns Manvilled Corporation, the world’s largest asbestos mine/manufacturer served with 11 writs by asbestos victims. Claims settled out of court with secrecy order.

Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in the US finds that half the men working at John Manville plants for more than three years develop lung disease.

British Home Office Survey finds widespread asbestos disease in UK factories.
Inspector of Factories and Shops in Western Australia reports on the effect of asbestos dust on the lungs of workers in the James Hardie Factory in Perth.
Lang Hancock ‘discovers’ the Wittenoom blue asbestos (crocidolite) deposits and later begins pick and shovel mining.
CSR Limited send Senior Executive, MG King to the US, Canada, South Africa and Europe to study asbestos mining and manufacturing. It is the start of regular contact between CSR and John Manville, including further overseas trips between 1947 and 1952.

US adopt a “safe” dust limit of 176 particles of asbestos per cubic centimetre in the workplace.

German researchers identify six cancer deaths among asbestos textile works. Later animal studies confirm asbestos dust kills mice.

Western Australian Commissioner of Public Health and Chief Inspector of Factories find respiratory disorders among James Hardie workers.
Hancock begins mining at Wittenoom. Plant opens in 1943 and CSR takes over in 1948.
Sarnac Laboratory in New York confirms the link between asbestos and cancer. John Manville suppresses the report. A report on an asbestos mill at Zeehan in Tasmania (owned and operated by a CSR subsidiary) says that asbestos dust is a health hazard and discusses methods of eliminating it.
First warning of asbestos dust at Wittenoom – the WA Assistant State Mining Engineer reports on the danger of dust being generated. Mines inspector Adams reports on the “dust menace” at Witternoom amd discusses the need to reduce dust levels.
Known asbestos death toll reaches 235 in Britain, 16 in France and 30 in Italy.

Witternoom mine manager writes to head office about first known asbestosis case – a man named Digman

Mines Department Inspector Adams describes dust conditions at Wittenoom as “terrific”.

Dr Eric Saint tells Witternoom mine management that asbestos is extremely dangerous and that men exposed would contract chest disease inside six month. He writes to the Public Health Department in Perth that the mine will produce the greatest crop of asbestosis the world has ever seen.

Over the following three years, dust levels at the mine and mill are regularly monitored at six to eight times “safe levels”. Further warnings are given to mine management. No improvement in conditions is noted.

WA Commissioner for Public Health report to his Minister that “Asbestos dust, if inhaled, constitutes a very grave risk and is, if anything, worse than silicosis”.

State Mining Engineer reports insufficient attention to safety regulations and ventilation at Witternoom.

WA has adopted a “safe” dust limit of 176 particles per cubic centimetre, Witternoom readings continually off the scale at 1000 particles. Mines and Health Department take no action apart from issuing further warnings.

Commissioner for Public Health writes to the Under Secretary for Mines that “The hazard from asbestos is considerably greater than that from silica…we have reason to believe that attention to this aspect of mining operations at Witternoom has been inadequate in the past.”

Mines Inspector Ibbotson describes conditions at Witternoom as a “disgrace”. The following year he threatens to close the mine.
Dr Richard Doll in the UK produces the most comprehensive survey to date linking asbestos dust with lung disease.
Western Australia Health Department Official Dr James McNulty discovers six cases of lung damange among Witternoom workers. He warns the mine manager and writes the first of a series of warnings.
Wagner paper published a “new” disease, mesothelioma (fatal cancer of the linings of the lungs) discovered among people exposed to asbestos in South Africa.

Annual reports of WA Commissioner for Public Health say working at Witternoom is thirty times more dangerous than other mining.

Britain cuts maximum exposure level of asbestos in workplace from 176 to 5 particles per cubic centimetre.

First case of mesothelioma detected among ex-Wittenoom workers. The man dies.

More than 100 cases of lung disease among Wittenoom workers and ex-workers – more than for all other mines in Western Australia.
Local council warned that the tonnes of asbestos tailings being spread about Wittenoom could even threaten tourists.
G Major of the Commonwealth Health Department is highly critical of dust at the mine and mill, CSR closes the mine two weeks later.
Building unions at workplaces across Australia commence industrial action to ban the use of asbestos.
Witternoom toll reaches 175. 27 men now known to have died.
First public warning of the dangers of blue asbestos. Bulletin Magazine cover story, “Is This Killer in Your Home?”
Cornelius Maas becomes the first mesothelioma victim to sue the CSR subsidiary that ran the mine. He dies before the case gets to court.
First victories in court for Wittenoom mesothelioma victims. Judge rules CSR acted with “continuing, conscious and contumelious” disregard for its workers’ safety.
Witternoom toll tops 500. National Health and Medical Research Council predicts the final toll will be 2000.
adfa played a major role in winning changes to NSW Laws regarding dust diseases which benefitted our members. The laws were a first for Australia.
Union continue their efforts to make James Hardie accountable for its failure to acknowledge the damage to workers’ health and obligations to compensate workers affected by asbestos-related disease. James Hardie establishes the Medical Research and Compensation Foundation.
Asbestos finally banned in workplace after a long-running union campaign and work with asbestos victims to make a manufacturer James Hardie pay compensation.
James Hardie and the NSW Government sign historic agreement, providing $4.5 billion dollars in funding for Australia’s asbestos victims.
Department of Environment and Conservation subsequently classified Wittenoon as a contaminated site under the Contaminated Sites Act 2003 on 28 January 2008.
ABC Journalist Matt Peacock’s Book “Killer Company- James Hardie Exposed” is released.
NSW Asbestos victims to get Fedeal compensation in form of loan so that asbestos victims & families continue to be compensated.
Insidious danger in the wake of deluge from Cyclone Yasi in QLD. Hazard alert for thousands of workers cleaning up debris of fibro homes.
High court of Australia has found seven Directors of the James Hardie group breached duties by approving of misleading statements released to the stock exchange.ABC broadcast “Devil’s Dust”, a documentary on asbestos-related diseases, following the investigative journalist Matt Peacock.
Asbestos Mine Barraba Flyover 19 September 2016

Asbestos History Infograph


The Evil Dust – the history of asbestos, an excerpt

Wittenoom Western Australia

Wittenoom Western Australia Today

Infamous asbestos mining town in the heart of the Pilbara. There is something very bitter-sweet about Wittenoom. This near ghost town set at the mouth of the Wittenoom Gorge is the home of Australia’s greatest industrial disaster and yet it is located in one of the most beautiful areas of the Pilbara.

Located 1450 km north of Perth and 460 m above sea level this once thriving settlement is in the heart of the beautiful Hamersley Range. It is ideally located for people wishing to visit the numerous gorges which cut through the range. However, as everyone in
Australia now knows, Wittenoom is also in a valley of death.

The signs around the town call attention to the problem: DANGER – Asbestos Tailings Risk Area. Inhaling Asbestos Fibres May Cause Cancer.