Approximately 15 percent of America’s coal mines contained asbestos in the coal ore. And for generations, many American coal miners suffered from deadly airborne asbestos exposure.
Coal miners had asbestos exposure from two sources. One came from asbestos fibers native to the rock and disbursed in coal seams.
Asbestos fibers became dislodged when ore was drilled, blasted and shoveled. Coal dust clouds contained asbestos particles that miners inhaled during their daily duties.
The second asbestos exposure form was from the mining machinery they operated and the materials miners used in their workplace.
Miners ran heavy-duty equipment containing asbestos in their heat and friction control systems. Buildings on coal mine sites also included asbestos materials that contributed deadly fibers in the air. Miners also wore protective clothing made of asbestos.
American coal mining dates back to the 1600s. Coal was the primary energy source for heating homes and firing commercial steam boilers on train locomotives and all types of ships. In the late 1800s, coal-fired generators began producing electricity.
Many areas still rely on coal-powered electrical generation grids. And from the 1920s until the 1980s, coal mines produced asbestos by-products and consumed large quantities of asbestos-containing materials (ACM).