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.
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.