Asbestos in all its forms has long been used in all facets of industry since the dawn of the Industrial Age over two hundred years ago. Wherever high heat, flame or electrical current was a danger, asbestos was the material of choice used to contain it.
Which Factory Workers Are At Risk?
An easier question to ask would be, “which factory workers are not at risk?” Asbestos was – and continues to be – found in so many industrial applications that it would be difficult to find a factory where at least some asbestos wasn’t present. Foundries and plants where molten metal is poured is one place where asbestos was used in abundance. Blast furnace doors usually had asbestos linings; many tools might contain asbestos. Ironically, protective gear was often a source of asbestos exposure; fireproof aprons and gloves were lined with asbestos material which could release fibers if the outer layer were torn or worn through.
Aluminum plants are yet another location at which factory workers were exposed to asbestos. Aluminum is extracted from bauxite ore and processed under high heat in what is known as a “pot room;” these pots were frequently lined with asbestos insulation.
The auto industry has used asbestos practically since the beginning. Because of the high heat generated by friction (often over 1000 degrees), brake shoes were frequently made from asbestos, as well as clutch plates. Asbestos might also be used in the firewall that separated the engine from the passenger compartment.
Paper mill workers might have been exposed to asbestos by changing the felts used in drying machines. These drying machines themselves may have used cement containing one or more particularly deadly forms of asbestos, crocidolite and amosite.
Chemical factories are some of the worst offenders when it comes to asbestos. Not only did these factories make use of asbestos in great amounts, they often attempted to cover up or deny the fact that it was causing worker injuries and illness.
The most egregious crimes were committed by the asbestos producers themselves. In 1977, a plaintiff’s attorney made a discover in an office closet at the Raysbestos Corporation of New York, consisting of letters between that company’s CEO and the CEO of Johns-Manville. The content of these letters proved that these corporations had known of the health effects of asbestos for over forty years, and had conspired to keep the information secret from the public.
Asbestosis and Mesothelioma
There is a considerable latency period for mesothelioma; symptoms typically appear some twenty to fifty years after the initial exposure. Not everyone who is exposed develops the disease. Use of tobacco however has been shown to exacerbate the conditions that cause malignant mesothelioma; smokers who have been exposed to asbestos run a far greater risk for developing the asbestos cancer than non-smokers.
A mesothelioma law firm specializing in asbestos litigation will often maintain or have access to a database containing records of manufacturers and dealers in asbestos products. In addition, asbestos litigation has over three decades of precedent and case law upon which to draw; an overwhelming majority of cases are decided in favor of the plaintiff.