Asbestos exposure affects more than mill workers
Asbestos has been a threat for centuries more than people realize. Modern use didn’t expand until the Industrial Revolution, but its discovery dates back to 2500 B.C. as a way to strengthen ceramic pots and utensils. Since then, it’s been used in many products, including tiles, insulation, crayons and clothing.
Because most asbestos poisoning cases happen in those who worked with or around the mineral, many believe that is the sole source of exposure. The extensive use between the 1800s and 1970s allowed many more to be exposed to asbestos without realizing the danger.
Fortunately, regulations have reduced the amount of asbestos products, but they haven’t fully eliminated the problem or erased past exposure. In certain cases, the asbestos risk remains hidden in old roofing, flooring and pipe insulation. As soon as it’s disturbed and released, it becomes a threat.
While working in a steel mill, chemical or power plant, paper mill or other factory prior to the regulations puts you at a greater risk, there are other ways to be exposed aside from occupation.
For some, living in a mining or factory town presents serious risks. The town of Libby, Montana, is still dealing with the consequences of a vermiculite asbestos mine that operated until 1992. Asbestos can be released from the mine into the air and potentially harm those in close proximity to the site.
In areas where asbestos is naturally occurring, developers must pay careful attention to not disturb the ground in such a way that will release the asbestos. Past natural disasters and mining in California has led to such consequences. A roadway in Nevada experienced severe development delays after the discovery of asbestos halted production.
Wives and children of mill workers and miners have developed mesothelioma when interacting with their loved one and his clothing. Both wearing their father’s coat and doing their husband’s laundry allowed asbestos to be transferred from the uniform to the family, leading to asbestos-related diseases.
Additionally, those in the dry cleaning business are at heightened risk if they washed the uniforms of the men from the mills. The regular interaction and amount increases the risk of developing mesothelioma or lung cancer.
After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, many questioned the safety of cleanup efforts after the houses were destroyed, sending the friable asbestos into the air and environment.
First responders, such as firefighters, also experience higher risk levels when entering an older home during a fire, unsure of what is in the air. When the North Tower was hit and collapsed on 9/11, the destruction released hundreds of tons of asbestos, causing some to get sick and die from mesothelioma decades before the disease typically develops.
Many old schools and county buildings were built prior to the 1970s. Because renovations in the buildings containing asbestos are costly, the carcinogen remains. While relatively safe if undisturbed, water leaks and other disruptions may put children and visitors at risk.
Certain asbestos products are well known, including tiles and insulation, but many don’t realize the full extent of its use. It’s also been used in:
- Roofing felts
- Sprayed coating
- Asbestos-cement sheet
- Mastic adhesives
- Cement pipe and fittings
- Paper tape
- Heat-resistant clothing
- Talcum powder
While the threat is less severe, it’s important to know and understand the risks. If you or someone you loved developed mesothelioma or lung cancer from working in a mill or other asbestos exposure, contact us immediately.
- WebMD, “Asbestos Exposure: Causes and Risks,” (May 26, 2014). [Link]
- National Cancer Institute, “Asbestos Exposure and Cancer Risk,” (May 1, 2009). [Link]