New Exhibit Shines Light on Illinois Asbestos Victims

When the UNARCO plant in Bloomington, Illinois, offered annual chest X-rays to its workers, the workers thought that the company was simply looking out for their well-being. But the truth was much darker.

As reported in The Pantagraph, the company was looking for signs of asbestosis, a chronic and debilitating disease caused by exposure to asbestos. If an X-ray revealed a dark spot on the lungs, the company “would find a reason to let you go,” former plant worker Ron Thacker told the newspaper.

Thacker, now 77, is one of the more than 100 UNARCO workers who developed asbestosis after being exposed to toxic asbestos dust at the plant. Now he and others are working to create an exhibit detailing UNARCO’s history in Bloomington as well as the long-reaching health effects of asbestos. The exhibit, “A Deadly Deception: The Asbestos Tragedy in McLean County,” is scheduled to open at the McLean County Museum of History in 2015.

While the plant is long gone, its devasting effects are still being felt. Workers exposed to asbestos at the plant and their survivors have filed dozens of asbestos lawsuits over the years against UNARCO (Union Asbestos & Rubber Co.), according to The Pantagraph. Juries have awarded millions of dollars to UNARCO’s victims. In 1982, UNARCO filed for bankruptcy.

The upcoming exhibit will feature a poignant memorial to the people who died from exposure to the asbestos used in the plant. It will include workers, family members who came in contact with asbestos fibers on the workers’ clothing, and local people who used products made at the plant.

“We don’t want just a list of names,” Susan Hartzold, the museum’s curator, told the newspaper. “These are people. They died because the company thought of the bottom line.”

If you or a loved one has developed asbestosis or mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact Sokolove Law today for a free case evaluation to learn if an asbestos attorney can help you.