Asbestos Exposure in Steel Mills

From the early 1940s to the late 1970s, those that worked in the steel mills, from laborers to supervisors, had the potential to encounter asbestos on a daily basis.  At the time, asbestos wasreadily availableand cheap which made its durability and resistance to heat, flame and corrosion all the more useful within the steel industry.

When asbestos fibers are released into the air, they can stay in the area for hours affecting anyone near the site.  Once the toxic fibers are inhaled, they become lodged in the linings of the lungs and can remain in the body for several years.  The cellular damage can lead to asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.  Often, symptoms of asbestos-related diseases do not appear for 20-50 years after the first exposure.

Jobs that Posed a High Risk to Asbestos Exposure

Due to the long latency period between the time of asbestos exposure and the development of any associated disease, steel workers who worked in the mills decades ago may have just received a diagnosis of mesothelioma or other asbestos-related illness.

The prevalence of asbestos in the steel mill industry impacted a wide range of workers and put them at a greater risk of exposure.  Some of those occupations include:

  • Blacksmiths
  • Boilermakers
  • Bricklayers
  • Conductors
  • Foremen
  • Furnace Operators
  • Machinists
  • Millwrights
  • Motor Inspectors
  • Pipefitters
  • Supervisors
  • Welders

It was almost impossible to avoid exposure, since asbestos products were used in so many different areas of the steel industry, such as:

Construction Products:Asbestos-containing products were found in the construction of the steel mills.  From refractory bricks on hot tops to floor and ceiling tiles to liner boards, steel workers were exposed to asbestos within the steel mills on a daily basis.

Machinery & Equipment:  With its known heat-resistant properties, asbestos was used as an insulator for coke ovens, hot blast stoves, furnaces, rolling mills, heat boilers, steam pipes and tanks.  It was also found in machinery gaskets and the brake linings for cranes.

Protective Clothing:  Unfortunately, decades ago, many employees worked without the use of protective clothing, which posed its own set of hazards.  But those that did wear the proper safety gloves, aprons and coveralls, were exposed to other dangers, as their protective clothing was made of asbestos fibers.   If the heat resistant, protective clothing was worn, frayed or cut, then the asbestos fibers became airborne.

Even though federal regulations were established in the 1980s by OSHA and other government agencies, many blue-collar workers remain at risk due to asbestos exposure in the workplace. If you or someone you know has been exposed to high levels of asbestos, it is important to consult a doctor. If a diagnosis of mesothelioma has been given, contact an Asbestos Lawyer immediately to discuss your legal rights and potential compensation.