Asbestos Exposure in Weavers

Highly coveted for its fire-resistant, flexible properties, asbestos use in weaving textiles dates back centuries. Unfortunately for the employees who weaved asbestos fibers — and for those who used the resulting asbestos-laden goods — the detrimental health effects of prolonged asbestos exposure would soon become evident.

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Records of Ancient Greece show the use of asbestos in tablecloths, linens, and other handmade items. Its thin, fibrous crystals were a dream come true for weavers who later commercially produced goods made from asbestos in the United States.

Weavers and Asbestos Exposure

Weavers were exposed to high levels of asbestos while preparing the fibers and during the fabrication process of textiles. Once disturbed, asbestos dust released into the air and could be inhaled into the lungs of employees.

The following asbestos products put weavers at a high risk of mesothelioma: 

  • Blankets
  • Clothing
  • Cords
  • Ropes
  • Sheets
  • Tapes
  • Threads
  • Wicks
  • Yarns
  • Other linens

Cloths, uniforms, and other goods made from asbestos became highly convenient for workers in the industrial, construction, and military job sectors. Weavers created fireproof textiles for use in protective clothing such as firefighter suits or motorsport uniforms, and for garments, aprons, and oven mitts for workers who were exposed to high heat.

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Weaver Roles and Responsibilities

Weavers were responsible for weaving asbestos fibers into cloth, one of the final steps in the fabrication process at textile mills.

Until the mid-1970s, many manufacturing facilities charged with making products out of asbestos operated throughout the U.S., particularly in the Carolinas.

Weavers who worked at these textile mills were responsible for creating a number of products, from asbestos alone or in combination with vegetable fibers, animal fibers, or synthetic plastics.

Although there are several asbestos types, most asbestos-based textiles use the longest fibers from chrysotile asbestos — a known carcinogen that can lead to deadly diseases.

Asbestos Textiles in Homes

Thousands of people found themselves using textiles in their homes that were created either partially or entirely from asbestos. The once-popular substance still remains as one of the only natural minerals composed of fibers that can be woven into cloth.

Once research revealed the fatal consequences of prolonged asbestos exposure, some of the mills that produced asbestos textiles were closed in the 1970s because they were too contaminated to remain open.

Others, however, tried to retrofit and remodel to remove the asbestos contamination.

Even after asbestos was prohibited in manufacturing textiles, those who were in charge of operating or cleaning old machinery that was once contaminated with asbestos could still be at risk for developing a serious asbestos-related disease.

Weavers and Mesothelioma

In several studies examining the risk of exposure to chrysotile asbestos in textile factory workers, there was a marked increase in lung cancer mortality — and that risk was strongly correlated with exposure level.

Rates of Mesothelioma Among Weavers

A National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health study uncovered an estimated 170 deaths due to lung cancer, mesothelioma, or asbestosis among workers at an asbestos textile, friction, and packing plant who were exposed to asbestos through 1975. An additional 396 workers died from heart disease, which NIOSH suggests could have been a result of their lung illnesses turning into fatal heart conditions.

Any person employed as a weaver before asbestos was phased out is at high risk for developing several diseases, including mesothelioma.

Those who operated or cleaned machinery used in the textile process or who lived in close proximity of textile mills that manufactured products made from asbestos also carry a risk of developing the illness.

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Compensation for treatment, loss of income, and other damages is available through Asbestos Trust Funds. Mesothelioma patients and veterans with asbestos-related illnesses may qualify.

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Compensation for Weavers

Countless people employed as weavers before the 1980s could have been exposed to asbestos regularly, depending on the factory they worked in.

Because many employers knowingly placed workers in danger, many weavers have since developed mesothelioma and may be eligible to claim legal compensation for their condition.

If you are a weaver with mesothelioma, you may be able to take legal action with help from our Justice Support Team. See all the ways we can help you right now.

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 23, 2019

View 7 Sources
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  3. National Cancer Institute, “Occupational and Nonoccupational Exposures to Asbestos” Retrieved from https://nyaspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1749-6632.1965.tb41101.x Accessed on July 7, 2018.
  4. Medical Research Council, “Mortality from Lung Cancer in Asbestos Workers” Retrieved from https://europepmc.org/backend/ptpmcrender.fcgi?accid=PMC1037613&blobtype=pdf Accessed on July 7, 2018.
  5. Inspectapedia, “Asbestos Textiles".  Retrieved from https://inspectapedia.com/hazmat/Asbestos_Textiles.php Accessed on July 7, 2018.
  6. Wiley Online Library, “An asbestos hazard in the reprocessed textile industry”. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/ajim.4700110303 Accessed on July 7, 2018.
  7. NCBI, “Textile industry and occupational cancer” Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4986180/ Accessed on July 7, 2018.
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