Asbestos Plant Workers


Asbestos plant workers transformed raw asbestos into cement, cloth, sealants and a wide range of other manufactured products. Asbestos was frequently mined and manufactured in the United States because it provided a reliable, honest living for thousands of Americans.

United States Asbestos Industry

While the asbestos mining and manufacturing industry have died down in the United States, it was a bustling industry that peaked in 1973. Some manufacturing plants are still operating today.

Asbestos plant workers who inhaled asbestos fibers are at risk of developing asbestosis and mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer, later in life.

Asbestos Plant Workers Roles

Asbestos plant workers were responsible for receiving raw asbestos from mines and then processing it into a variety of manufactured materials.

During its heydey, there were hundreds of active asbestos mines and manufacturing plants throughout the United States.

Asbestos plant workers are primarily considered semi-skilled, although some less skilled occupations were available as well. It was common for asbestos plants to hire unskilled individuals and then train them on specific tasks or machinery.

Asbestos manufacturing is a relatively simple process, following several stages:

  • Raw asbestos is received as fiber bundles and placed into a fiberizing machine that breaks down the asbestos further.
  • Asbestos fibers are then carded—a process in which fibers are cleaned, fluffed up and then separated into smaller strands. These strands are then bundled together into a “sliver.”
  • Some asbestos slivers become cement, processed through a variety of machines that properly prepare the asbestos and combine it with other raw ingredients.
  • Other asbestos slivers are spun and twisted into yarn and then placed onto looms. These looms determine the size of the asbestos cloth. Some of this asbestos cloth is ready to be distributed and used for insulation, fire-resistant blankets and protective clothing.
  • The remaining asbestos is then plaited, a process in which the cloth is pulled into ropes, yarns and strings. Plaited asbestos is commonly used in sealants, caulking and packing materials.

Although the overall process is simple, the individual steps are complicated and use specific machinery and tools to accomplish the desired output. Asbestos plant workers may be responsible for working the machines, maintaining quality control, supervising employees, cleaning up waste or a variety of other roles.

Asbestos Plant Workers and Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos plant workers are exposed to asbestos regularly throughout their day-to-day work. Regardless of the individual’s specific role, asbestos plant workers are in an environment where asbestos is routinely disturbed, sending dangerous microscopic fibers into the air.

While all asbestos plant workers are exposed to asbestos, some roles put people at higher risk.

MJN Brief

Science has linked total asbestos consumption to a person’s likelihood of developing asbestos-related diseases. In other words, the more often a person is exposed, the more likely they are to develop mesothelioma.

The following is a list of asbestos products, in order of likely asbestos consumption:

Individuals who worked with asbestos-cement are significantly more likely to develop mesothelioma than those working with textiles, sealants, friction and waterproofing products.

However, all types of asbestos manufacturing may have exposed plant workers to deadly asbestos fibers.

Asbestos manufacturing today is much safer than it was in the past, as much tighter environmental and health regulations help protect employees.

Unfortunately, the dangers of asbestos weren’t fully made public until the 1970s, and these regulations were too little too late for many workers. Even today, modern asbestos plant workers are still at some risk of developing mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases later in life.

Asbestos Plant Workers and Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a vicious form of cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos fibers. Asbestos plant workers in an environment with asbestos fibers accidentally inhale and ingest the fibers.

These asbestos fibers then become lodged in the pleura or peritoneum, which is the lining of the lungs and abdomen respectively. Over time, these lodged asbestos fibers cause nearby cells to mutate into mesothelioma, deadly cancer that forms tumors and spreads throughout the body.

Exposure to these asbestos fibers several decades ago can result in mesothelioma today, as It typically takes 10 to 50 years for symptoms to develop. Asbestos plant workers who have long retired may be at risk of developing mesothelioma. Unfortunately, for the majority of people, mesothelioma is fatal.

Compensation for Asbestos Plant Workers

If you worked in an asbestos plant in the United States, you are at risk of developing mesothelioma later in life. Once mesothelioma has advanced, there is no cure. However, you may be able to receive compensation for any loss in wages or medical expenses, as well as punitive damages for your suffering.

To learn more about justice for asbestos plant workers, contact our Justice Support Team today.

View Author and Sources
  1. US National Library of Medicine, “A study of the mortality of workers in an asbestos factory.” Retrieved from Accessed 14 April 2018
  2. US National Library of Medicine, “Asbestos related disease among workers of asbestos processing plants in relation to type of production and asbestos use.” Retrieved from Accessed 14 April 2018.
  3. USGS, “Asbestos mines, prospects, and occurrences in the US.” Retrieved from Accessed 14 April 2018.
  4. Environmental Protection Agency, “Asbestos: Industry Profile.” Retrieved from Accessed 14 April 2018.

Last modified: May 7, 2018