Illinois has a large industrial economy with significant markets in manufacturing, agriculture, coal, oil, electricity and timber. In the last few decades, these industries used asbestos-containing materials. Many employees were exposed to toxic fibers, developing diseases such as mesothelioma and asbestosis.
Mesothelioma Cases in Illinois
Illinois is home to 30 locations that received at least nearly 400,000 tons of asbestos-contaminated vermiculite—a rock mineral composed of magnesium, iron, and aluminum. Chicago, Girard, Peoria, Buda and Calumet City are major areas with facilities that processed much of this vermiculite traced with asbestos.
Asbestos has also been discovered in school buildings in Illinois, all built several decades ago. Illinois has since become a prominent area for asbestos-related litigation.
Illinois had just over 2,000 mesothelioma mortalities between 1999 and 2015. Illinois has a mesothelioma mortality rate of about 9 individuals per million each year, with La Salle, Lake and McLean counties ranking in the top 50 in the United States with the highest age-adjusted mesothelioma mortality rate.
It is important to note that the state of Illinois does not have any naturally occurring asbestos. Any exposure comes mainly from worksites where materials containing asbestos were incorrectly handled.
While there is no naturally occurring asbestos in Illinois, there are several industries throughout that used the toxin frequently and in high quantities. Illinois is a major manufacturing-reliant state, making its industrial workers vulnerable to asbestos exposure over the decades.
Oil Refineries, Power Plants and Steel Mills
In the past century, oil refineries in Illinois used asbestos in many processes due to its ability to resist heat, and major manufacturers used the toxin for similar reasons. Power plants, in particular, used asbestos directly in their machinery, placing employees at extreme risk of exposure without their understanding or knowledge of its dangers.
Steel mills in Illinois often included asbestos in their insulation to protect equipment as well as employees from high temperatures and fire. In these cases, workers came into direct contact with asbestos under the guise of protection.
Another major industry affected by mesothelioma is the military. Many veterans are affected by asbestos, often used in U.S. military bases across the country. Asbestos usage in these military constructions was originally intended to protect and strengthen the buildings. Unfortunately, it also simultaneously caused harm to our nation’s veterans.
Illinois Asbestos Laws and Regulations
All of the United States must individually follow federally regulated laws concerning asbestos. However, the state of Illinois has some additional laws.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Asbestos Unit is the body which monitors the majority of asbestos regulations in Illinois. This body ensures that NESHAP regulations are followed—such regulations can be found in Title 35 of the Illinois Administrative Code. Illinois also has a state-approved OSHA plan—which is governed by the Illinois Department of Labor—in addition to federal offices in the state that manage occupational health and safety of workers.
Illinois Asbestos Disposal Regulations
Any individual that is in charge of the removal, transport or disposal of asbestos must now be certified and licensed in Illinois. The Department of Public Health will certify these asbestos professionals in addition to asbestos management plans in buildings—, particularly schools—where the toxin has been found.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Asbestos Unit is in charge of managing the correct and safe transport or disposal of asbestos, ensuring that any hazardous waste materials follow the correct permits. Currently, asbestos can only be disposed of in certified and specific landfills after the Illinois EPA is notified.
Informing Workers of Potential Exposure
It should be noted that the state of Illinois, as well as federal law, provide all workers the right to work in an environment where they cannot be exposed to harmful substances. All workers have the right to information about any potential hazards that may exist in their workplace.
If an individual is diagnosed with mesothelioma or any other asbestos-related illness, they reserve the right to employment and cannot be fired due to this condition. Any potentially dangerous occupational conditions can be reported to an OSHA office in the state.
Illinois residents who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma have 2 years to act on legal compensation, either for personal injury or wrongful death suits.
Retaining an Illinois Mesothelioma Lawyer
Mesothelioma litigation is a complex and emotional journey to navigate. Patients with mesothelioma are wise to seek the counsel of a specialized mesothelioma attorney. Each person’s case is unique, with different exposure histories and medical diagnoses. Only an experienced attorney can help put together a successful case.
If you have questions about asbestos exposure in Illinois, please do not hesitate to contact our Justice Support Team today.