Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring minerals which are hydrous magnesium silicates, and which separate into long, thin fibers. An extraordinarily fire-resistant, strong and durable substance, it was used for many years to insulate and fireproof buildings, automobiles particularly brakes repaired by mechanics), and ships.
In the 1970s, a medical study at Mt. Sinai Medical School suggested that the concentration inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause serious illnesses, including cancer in those who also smoked cigarettes. This unleashed decades of litigation by trial attorneys to sue corporations on behalf of nearly anyone who had been exposed to asbestos, which were millions. Based on fake science, defendants have been looted of many billions of dollars in these lawsuits, and companies have been bankrupted. In 2009, both General Motors and Chrysler went through bankruptcies that ended their exposure to additional asbestos lawsuits, while Ford Motor Company continues to be victimized by them.
The banning of asbestos from buildings by the EPA has led to the use of less-effective substitutes. Workers have been sent to prison terms for removing asbestos contrary to obscure federal regulations. In at least one case a prisoner was released from jail after a multi-year imprisonment, after it was discovered that the alleged regulatory violation did not occur when the regulation was in effect.
The original study has been criticized for failing to separate the effects of cigarette smoking from the effects of asbestos.