While the Industrial Age may have brought higher living standards to many over the past two centuries, it has done so at a cost. Because most industrial activity involves the use of heat energy in one form or another, the use of asbestos has been part of it almost since the beginning. High risk occupations include virtually all construction and building tradesmen, demolition engineers, maintenance workers and custodians, mechanics, railroad workers, pipe fitters, electricians and steel and iron workers.
In addition, family members of such workers may be at risk from secondary exposure to asbestos. This occurs when asbestos fibers are carried into the home from the workplace on the worker’s hair and clothing.
How Asbestos Was Used in Steel Mills
Asbestos is a group of six silicate minerals, the most common of which is chrysolite. It is literally a kind of rock. Unlike typical rock however, asbestos is pliable and easy to work with. Like rock, it is impervious to flames and is a poor conductor of heat and electricity.
Because of these properties, asbestos was used in gaskets and linings where substances were subject to high levels of heat. Asbestos was used in ovens, ladles, boilers, and steam pipes.
Ironically, a great deal of exposure was due to asbestos clothing that was meant to protect steelworkers from burns, such as leggings, aprons, overcoats, gloves and masks).
Those who likely suffered the greatest exposure include pourers and casters, operators, tenders, furnace operators and inspectors. In addition, machine setters, millwrights and welders are also at risk.
Technically, all new uses of asbestos were banned three decades ago. In addition, there are ongoing attempts to remove the substance wherever it is found in older buildings and industrial facilities built prior to the 1980s.
In 1989, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) attempted to ban all uses of the substance. The regulations were challenged by the asbestos industry however, and two years later, were overturned by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. As a result, asbestos is still present in many products.
In 2002, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced legislation that would have completely banned virtually all uses of asbestos in the U.S. It was referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, but no further action has been taken on the bill.
Your Legal Rights
Plaintiffs with mesothelioma, a rare form of asbestos cancer that affects the lungs in it’s most common form (Pleural mesothelioma), as well as the heart, stomach, or other organs of the body in other, more rare, types, historically have the strongest cases against the asbestos industry, because so far, medical science has determined that it has only one cause: exposure to asbestos fibers. It is however important to have a solid, thorough diagnosis, confirmed by both an oncologist and a pathologist in addition to your primary care physician.
The main reason is because the only defense available to corporations being sued is to somehow prove that the plaintiff’s disease is not malignant mesothelioma. Since civil cases are decided on a preponderance of evidence rather than reasonable doubt, it is in your best interest to have irrefutable proof of your illness, as well as the exposure which caused it.