The long latency periods – of up to 40 years or more – which occurs from first exposure to asbestos to the appearance of asbestosis symptoms, are well known. Victims can come from all walks of life, beyond the traditional asbestos manufacturing or handling workplace environments.

Indeed, many victims have been those who later worked principally in the creative arts and entertainment industries but whose earlier lives had unfortunately, exposed them to asbestos. The development of asbestos-related disease, such as mesothelioma, lay dormant until becoming apparent many years later in their careers.

A well know example was the famous 1960s and 70s film actor, Steve McQueen, who died thirty years ago from a highly metastasized peritoneal ( stomach) mesothelioma.

There are several possible ways that McQueen may have been exposed to asbestos. McQueen was a keen motor racing fan and regularly took part in the sport, both racing and actually working on the cars. Asbestos is known to have been used extensively in brake linings, protective helmets and racing suits at the time.

McQueen himself, felt that asbestos used in movie soundstage insulation and race-drivers’ protective suits and helmets could have been involved. However, he believed his illness came as a direct result of considerable, regular exposure before becoming an actor.

This was at a time where asbestos was a widely used insulating material and an accompanying lack of asbestos awareness, when McQueen was removing asbestos lagging from pipes aboard a troop ship whilst he was in the US Marines from 1947-1950.

McQueen developed a chronic cough in 1978 that began to acutely affect his acting abilities.
Shortness of breath became more pronounced and at the end of 1979, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma , the type of cancer exclusively associated with asbestos exposure.

Despite receiving radiation therapy, by February 1980, there was evidence of widespread metastasis. McQueen also undertook controversial alternative therapies including the taking of large quantities of daily vitamins, coffee enemas and massage therapy, but all to no avail.

After undergoing extensive surgery to remove cancerous growths from his neck and abdomen, McQueen finally succumbed to the disease in November 1980, after suffering a fatal heart attack on the day after surgery – and some 30 years, undoubtedly, after initial asbestos exposure.