Furnace men, smelter operators and pourers all work in close proximity with metal and metal ores in refineries. These workers may maintain various types of furnaces, including gas, coal, oil, oxygen and electric furnaces that are used to melt and refine metal ore. The metal goes on to be employed for many uses, from casting to steel production.
Asbestos Exposure in Furnace Men, Smelter Men, and Pourers
Furnace men, smelter men, and pourers all worked in already risky work environments where exposure to extreme temperatures was a given. As a result, those working in the industry prior to the 1980s were likely wearing personal protective gear and clothing that contained asbestos.
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While the asbestos-containing gear was intended to protect the workers’ health and safety, it was likely the culprit behind the onset of asbestos-related illnesses in many workers.
In addition to clothing, asbestos was also present in these work environments in other ways:
- Asbestos insulation used in furnaces: It can be sprayed on or applied with asbestos boards
- Binding agents: These agents contain asbestos dust and debris failed to function at the high temperatures required for smelting
Workers who handled the furnaces and their high-temperature metals were at the highest risk of being exposed to asbestos, but the risk did not end with them.
Family members of workers could have also been exposed through secondhand asbestos exposure if they carried fibers home on clothing and hair.
Although the risk of asbestos exposure for furnace men, smelter men, and pourers is lower today due to new safety standards and protective measures, the risk has not been eliminated. Asbestos is still found in many household furnaces in homes built before the 1980s.