Cement Plant Workers

Cement is a commonly used building substance made from a mixture of limestone and other materials. Before the 1970s, it was popular for cement to be mixed with asbestos to provide strength, flexibility, and protection against heat. Because asbestos is fireproof, it served as an ideal component for making molded cement siding, including roof tiles, corrugated sheets, and shingles.

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Cement Plant Workers and Asbestos Exposure

The role of a cement plant worker is to mix, mold, and distribute cement, which before 1970 generally contained asbestos.

There are two types of asbestos used in cement mixing, and there is much debate about which form can be the most detrimental to health.

The types of asbestos used in cement mixing were:

  1. Brown and Blue Asbestos: Before the 1960s, amosite (brown) or crocidolite (blue) asbestos was used in cement making and was often known as the most dangerous. This type of asbestos has long, rigid, needle-like fibers that burrow into the soft tissue of the pleural (lung) lining.
  2. White Asbestos: The second type of asbestos used was chrysotile (white), a more delicate type of fiber in a serpentine shape that was initially thought to be safer.

Cement Plant Workers Roles and Responsibilities

A central part of the cement worker’s job was to take blocks of asbestos and stir them into the heated cement mixture — binding the ingredients before pouring them into a cast for manufacturing. This put cement plant workers in direct contact with asbestos, which is now known to cause mesothelioma.

While the ratio of asbestos to cement would have been around 1 to 10, there were often enough leftover fibers in the cement plants to cause health issues. These fibers would attach themselves to workers’ clothing, hair, and shoes, contaminating other areas of the plant.

Other workers in the cement plant may have dealt with the finished product, rather than the making of it. One such product was corrugated sheets, which were created using a mold.

The workers were responsible for stacking these sheets, which then created a cloud of toxic asbestos dust that could easily become inhaled. After this, the product would be transported to the shipping department via conveyor belts, which further circulated the fibers throughout the rest of the factory.

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A 25-year study was carried out in China to look at the difference between the two types of asbestos and concluded that both were equally as dangerous to health in factory-like settings. However, another study in Poland noted that the crocidolite fibers were far more dangerous and were the cause of more deaths.

Cement plants changed the formula to chrysotile from the 1960s onward, which resulted in fewer deaths at the time. However, as mesothelioma can lay dormant for many decades, we will not fully know the damage done by the dangers of this type of asbestos.

Cement Making Today

Asbestos is no longer used in cement making today, though many old buildings will still contain the original cement, so caution is advised.

Substantial improvements in cement plants and the changing of technology mean that this industry is much safer today. Asbestos was prohibited from cement goods in 1998, so while some workers are still being diagnosed with mesothelioma today, there is hope that the risk is lower for workers in the present.

Cement Plant Workers and Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma occurs when fibers of asbestos become inhaled and lodged in the lining of the lungs. Symptoms can lay dormant for 20-50 years in some cases, but over time these needles form tumors that can spread throughout the lungs and nearby organs.

Cement plant workers would have come into daily contact with asbestos, and while the amounts were not in as high quantity or concentration as some other professions (like boilermakers), the material would have been lingering in the air of the factory at all times.

Cement plant workers who didn’t come into contact with asbestos as part of their job may still have been at risk, as the fibers were easily carried in the air into other areas of the factory such as the canteen area.

Compensation for Cement Plant Workers

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or any other asbestos-related disease, you may be eligible for compensation. Filing a lawsuit is the best course of action and can be done up to 3 years from your diagnosis date, depending on your state. The family of mesothelioma victims can also file a lawsuit for wrongful death within 3 years of death.

Our Justice Support Team can show you how to file for compensation and other benefits. Learn more about how we can help.

Author:Stephanie Kidd

Editor-in-Chief of the Mesothelioma Justice Network

Stephanie Kidd

Stephanie Kidd works tirelessly as a dedicated advocate for the vulnerable and underrepresented. Stephanie worked as a copywriter for an agency whose focus was communicating safety procedures on construction work sites. With her extensive background in victim advocacy and a dedication to seeing justice done, Stephanie works hard to ensure that all online content is reliable, truthful and helpful.

Last modified: September 13, 2019

View 3 Sources
  1. Mortality of workers at two asbestos-cement plants in Poland. Retrieved from: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/1b69/d906016b18a2e2b96dec0fe9d0699c35324c.pdf
    Accessed on April 13, 2018.
  2. Working with Asbestos cement. Retrieved from: https://www.eden.gov.uk/business-and-trade/food-hygiene-and-health/health-and-safety-at-work/working-with-asbestos-cement/. Accessed on April 13, 2018.
  3. Cancer Mortality among Workers Exposed to Amphibole-free Chrysotile Asbestos. Retrieved from: https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/154/6/538/75089. Accessed on April 13, 2018.
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