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Bankruptcy has emerged as a dominant avenue for resolving mass product liability cases and, in particular, asbestos liability cases. Plaintiffs already have filed hundreds of thousands of asbestos claims, with many experts surmising that the peak of asbestos litigation is not yet in sight. Asbestos encompasses a family of naturally occurring fibrous materials that have superior insulation and tensile strength properties. Manufacturers began to exploit the flame-retardant and insulating properties of asbestos in heavy industrial use in the 1940s and incorporated asbestos into as many as 3000 products by the early 1970s, when industrial usage peaked. From automotive applications, such as gaskets and brakes, to home uses, such as roof shingles and attic insulation, the use of asbestos for commercial applications proliferated throughout most of the 20th century and still continues today at a decreased rate. The United States still consumes approximately 16,000 metric tons of asbestos each year.

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