Bauxite ore is the source for aluminum and its transition from raw to finished product required high heat and a considerable amount of electricity. At one time, aluminum plants used asbestos products throughout the facility. This exposed aluminum plant workers to airborne asbestos fibers.
Asbestos was considered the perfect material for aluminum plants.
It had high insulating properties and was extremely fire resistant. Asbestos was non-corrosive and essentially non-reactive. It also didn’t conduct electricity, making it ideal for protecting the miles of high-voltage electrical lines typically found in aluminum plants.
Aluminum plants incorporated asbestos as a transite into many materials. Transite means “an additive,” as asbestos rarely appeared as a raw product in aluminum plants.
Workers usually added asbestos to cement powder and sprayed it as an insulation coating on ducts and reduction coils used in the aluminum manufacturing plant. Aluminum smelting required electrically heated cells that reached 1,760 degrees Fahrenheit (960 Celsius).
Other parts of aluminum plants used asbestos materials. Asbestos insulation coated exterior walls and ceilings. Chemically-resistant work surfaces and countertops contained asbestos. Asbestos fabrics were even made into workers’ safety protective clothing.