Industrial Workers and Mesothelioma
America’s industrial workers suffered because of asbestos. They worked in factories that created asbestos-containing products, or the facilities used them. They inhaled and swallowed these cancer-causing fibers before their dangers became widely known, or their employers were indifferent to their safety. Many blue-collar workers died of mesothelioma, casualties of industrial America’s love of asbestos.
Asbestos is a mineral fiber that is fire and heat-resistant. It’s also very strong and doesn’t conduct electricity. Asbestos was cheap and plentiful during its peak use, so it made its way into a wide range of products. When manufactured, installed, or removed, these products emitted fibers that were inhaled or swallowed and lodged in the lungs or digestive tracts of anyone in their vicinity.
Over time, the fibers resulted in cellular mutations that led to malignant tumors, including lung cancer and mesothelioma (an aggressive and deadly cancer of the lining of the lungs, heart, organs, chest, and abdominal cavities). You may have a right to compensation if your health was harmed by asbestos exposure. Satterley & Kelley can help.
What Products Contained Asbestos?
Over many decades asbestos was incorporated into thousands of products. They were used in homes, vehicles, airplanes, office buildings, and industrial facilities like power plants, petroleum refineries, and chemical plants. Some employees worked with machinery or equipment operating at very high heat and wore protective equipment and clothing containing asbestos.
The State of Minnesota compiled this partial list of asbestos products. Each one was manufactured, used, and maintained by employees who may or may not have used protective equipment or been aware of asbestos’ dangers:
- Brake linings
- Brake pads
- Clutch plates
- Acoustical plaster
- Ceiling panels
- Ceiling texture (Popcorn texture)
- Ceiling tiles
- Ceiling tile mastic
Cement-asbestos board (Transite) products
- Chimney flue lining
- Wall panels
- Cloth wire insulation
- Electrical breakers
- Electrical panel arc chutes
- Electrical panel partitions
- Electrical panels
- Insulating cloth
Fire protection products
- Fire blankets
- Fire curtains
- Fire doors
- Spray-on fireproofing
Heating and Cooling System products
- Boiler insulation
- Boiler breeching insulation
- Cooling towers
- Ductwork insulation
- Furnace insulation
- Heat shields (paper and corrugated cardboard)
- HVAC vibration dampeners
- Pipe lagging insulation
- Pipe elbow insulation
- Tank insulation
- Tank casings
- Thermal taping compounds
- Elevator car brake shoes
- Elevator equipment panels
- Asphalt floor tiles
- Carpet mastic
- Coving mastic
- Floor tile mastic
- Vapor barriers
- Vinyl floor tiles
- Vinyl sheet flooring (linoleum)
Industrial use products
- Beverage filters
- Friction materials
- Heat resistant gloves
- Laboratory hoods
- Laboratory tables and countertops
Paints and coatings
- Base flashing
- Tar or “Black Jack”
- Decorative plaster
- Caulking and putties
- Spackling compounds
- Vinyl wall coverings
- Wall penetration packing materials
- Wallboard joint compound
- Wallboard or sheetrock
- Attic insulation
- Fireplace decoration
- Gardening products
- Wall insulation
How Were Industrial Workers Exposed?
Bags of raw asbestos fibers may have been dumped into machinery that incorporated them into other product components. Products may have been placed into various forms to be heated or dried. They could’ve been cut into different shapes and sizes, releasing more asbestos into the air.
It may have been filled with fibers, and workers may or may not have used breathing protection. Their clothes may have been covered in asbestos by the end of the work day, bringing home toxic fibers to their family members.
Entire communities could be exposed to asbestos, thanks to large factories employing hundreds or thousands of people. Asbestos wasn’t confined to the buildings. It was often piled up outside.
Ambler, Pennsylvania, about 14 miles north of Philadelphia, was the home of the world’s largest asbestos manufacturing facility, according to the University of Pennsylvania. It made asbestos-containing products for more than a hundred years (1882 to 1987). Giant piles of asbestos debris were located throughout the city. They were known as the “white mountains of Ambler.” Residents used sleds to slide down them as if they were made of snow.
What are the Dangers of Asbestos?
Inhaled asbestos fibers often lodged into lung tissue and the pleura (the membrane lining the chest cavity and lungs). They could also work their way into the membrane covering the heart. Swallowed fibers could end up in the digestive tract, impacting the linings of organs and the abdominal cavity.
Workers’ immune systems would try to break down and destroy the fibers but fail. White cells would die, spill enzymes into surrounding tissue, causing scar tissue and inflammation. If enough fibers were in the lungs, the person would develop asbestosis, and their ability to breathe would be compromised. For some, over decades, cells in the area would mutate and eventually cause mesothelioma.
How Hazardous is Mesothelioma?
It’s a treatable condition but for most incurable. Treatment may reduce symptoms (chest pain, shortness of breath, cough, lower back pain, difficulty swallowing) and improve your quality of life.
How long you survive depends on many issues, including your overall health, age, and type of mesothelioma:
- Pleural mesothelioma: Generally, about 12% of those diagnosed are alive five years after diagnosis. For those whose disease is found early in its development, that figure improves to 20% but falls to 8% if the person’s condition is advanced and spreads through the body
- Peritoneal mesothelioma: This cancer of the membranes covering organs and the abdominal cavity is less deadly than the others but still takes a heavy toll. Researchers publishing a 2013 article in the European Journal of Cancer reviewed the outcomes of 108 peritoneal mesothelioma patients. Nearly half (43.6%) were alive seven or more years after treatment ended
- Pericardial mesothelioma: This is the rarest of the three and the deadliest. A study of pericardial mesothelioma patients found they survived, on average, two months after diagnosis
Relatively few mesotheliomas are not caused by asbestos. If you’re diagnosed with one of them, it’s almost certain asbestos caused it.
Call Us Today for A Free Consultation
Satterley & Kelley lawyers can respond to your questions, advise you of your rights to compensation for getting mesothelioma on the job as an industrial worker.