Asbestos Exposure in Textile Mill Workers

Textile mill workers spent most of their working lives around raw materials and heavy machinery. Between 1940 and 1980, many of the goods that were produced in these types of mills were made with asbestos fibers, which could have put countless workers at risk of developing asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma.

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Textile Mill Workers and Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos was used abundantly in the textile industry.

Not only were factories heavily constructed using asbestos, but many of the products textile workers manufactured also historically contained asbestos fibers.

Asbestos in Textile Machines

Textile mill workers often came into close contact with asbestos when working with large machinery. Textile machine components contained asbestos to increase friction and avoid heat damage.

As asbestos is fire and heat-resistant, it often served as an excellent material to use in factories because it’s non-flammable and protects moving parts.

Unfortunately, asbestos wears down over time and deposits pieces of harmful fibers into the air. Mills were often poorly ventilated, and workers completed their tasks in close proximity to each other, meaning that they ran a high risk of asbestos exposure.

Asbestos in Textiles

Another way in which textile mill workers came into contact with asbestos was through the textiles themselves. Asbestos was sometimes converted into a usable fabric and underwent several processes in a textile mill — all of which would have involved sending asbestos fibers airborne to be inhaled.

Did You Know?

In one epidemiological study in Prato, Italy, an investigation found that asbestos was used to cover bales of rags, which were then shipped around the world covered in chrysotile, amosite, or crocidolite asbestos fibers.

The entire textile manufacturing process that involved asbestos created an unsafe environment and put workers at risk of asbestos exposure.

Asbestos in Factory Construction

At the time of the Industrial Revolution, many mills were built to supply the demand of the textile boom. Asbestos was frequently used to build factories, whether as wall and ceiling insulation or as a heat-proof covering over pipes and boilers.

Over time, asbestos begins to disintegrate, becoming friable and releasing harmful fibers into the air. If anything needed to be replaced or repaired, the existing asbestos would be broken up to gain access, resulting in clouds of particles being released around the mill.


Textile Mill Workers Roles and Responsibilities

Textile mills are manufacturing facilities used to make fabrics and material for clothing or upholstery. Workers handle raw fibers (including wool, cotton, nylon, polyester, and more) and ‘card’ them with a comb before spinning them into yarn. Yarn is then dyed or printed and treated to prolong the life of the material.

Textile workers were responsible for all of these processes, usually working on a production line to complete each task before moving the material on to its next stage.

Alongside working with materials, textile mill workers were also responsible for the machinery used to complete their job, including tasks like:

  • Inspecting and testing raw materials
  • Operating machines
  • Setting up machines
  • Supervising the production team

Textile Mill Workers and Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma occurs when asbestos particles are inhaled and become embedded in the lining of the lungs, heart, or abdomen. The longer and thinner the asbestos fibers, the easier it is for them to puncture the lining of the lungs and cause tumors.

Over time, asbestos fibers irritate the tissues, triggering healthy cells to transform into cancerous mesothelioma cells. These mesothelioma cells eventually outnumber healthy cells and form tumors that spread to distant sites.

Did You Know?

A cohort study in 1979 found that there was an increased rate of mesothelioma among textile mill workers. Another study conducted in 1998 found that textile mill workers have the highest lung cancer risks, which can be linked to the carcinogenic effect of asbestos fibers.

Some studies argue that length of employment has little to do with a diagnosis, but rather the type of asbestos involved.

Results of a study that looked at 3,803 workers over a 30-year period at 3 factories in North Carolina. The study indicated that asbestos fiber length was significantly associated with an increase in cancer.

Compensation for Textile Mill Workers

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma through working in a textile mill, you may be eligible for legal compensation to cover medical expenses and loss of income.

Our Justice Support Team can tell you more about receiving legal compensation and medical treatments. Get a free case review today.

Mesothelioma Support Team
Stephanie KiddWritten by:


Stephanie Kidd grew up in a family of civil servants, blue-collar workers, and medical caregivers. Upon graduating Summa Cum Laude from Stetson University, she began her career specializing in worker safety regulations and communications. Now, a proud member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) and Editor-in-Chief of the Mesothelioma Cancer Network, Stephanie serves as a voice for mesothelioma victims and their families.

View 5 Sources
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  2. An asbestos hazard in the reprocessed textile industry. Retrieved from: Accessed on July 29, 2018.
  3. Carding. Retrieved from: Accessed on July 29, 2018.
  4. Temporal Patterns of Exposure to Asbestos and Risk of Asbestosis: An Analysis of a Cohort of Asbestos Textile Workers. Retrieved from: Accessed on July 29, 2018.
  5. Asbestos fibre dimensions and lung cancer mortality among workers exposed to chrysotile. Retrieved from: Accessed on July 29, 2018.
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