Allegheny County workers in several types of industries unknowingly were exposed to toxic minerals during the last century. Strong, fire-proof asbestos fibers were part and parcel of numerous U.S. products until the 1970s, when regulations severely limited the material's use. Asbestos was traced to respiratory diseases and other health conditions, like mesothelioma – a deadly cancer of the linings of the lungs, body cavity, abdomen or heart.
Employees in refineries and manufacturing and chemical plants were not the only workers to be poisoned by asbestos. The military found countless uses for asbestos in ships, vehicles and buildings built, serviced, maintained and used by military personnel. Today, 30 percent of mesothelioma victims are veterans.