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Steel Mills

Steel mills have been a huge employer in the United States. They’ve been a leading economic force since the Industrial Age introduced steel to U.S. factories. Yet steel mills relied on

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Most advances were excellent breakthroughs for the steel industry. Unfortunately, introducing one material in steel mills proved highly dangerous and that was asbestos.

Steel mills were hot and dirty environments. Smelting raw ore into finished steel products required converting energy into high heat. Naturally, heat in steel mills needed controlling.

Asbestos Was Thought to Be Safe

Scientists and steel engineers once thought asbestos was a wonderful addition to the steel making business, since it provided such amazing heat control. They were dead wrong.

Today, asbestos is known to cause life-threatening and incurable diseases like mesothelioma.

Steel mills used asbestos materials from the 1920s until the 1980s. Every steel mill in America utilized asbestos-containing materials (ACMs). Asbestos was an excellent insulator as it was thermally inert. It didn’t transfer heat well, so high-temperature areas used it extensively.

ACMs were fire-resistant. Being stone-based, asbestos fibers are non-combustible. Asbestos fibers are pliable and easy to work with by blending asbestos fibers into other steel making products.

Asbestos was also non-corrosive and non-conductive. ACMs wouldn’t rust or conduct electricity. Asbestos was widely available, affordable and inert when added to steel products. This made them more durable.

Airborne Asbestos Exposure in Steel Mills

It seemed there was no drawback to using asbestos materials in steel mills. However, the manufacturers of asbestos-containing products were keeping a dirty secret: long-term asbestos exposure could cause people to develop deadly health problems like mesothelioma.

The asbestos industry failed steel mill workers. For decades, steel mills were an environmental nightmare.

Did You Know?

Restrictions Came Too Late

By the mid-1980s, authorities took measures to restrict the use of asbestos in all industries, including steel mills. But, by then, the damage was already done as thousands of steel mill workers suffered from airborne asbestos exposure in their workplace.

Many steel mill equipment pieces and construction materials contained asbestos.

Asbestos particle sources in steel mills included:

  • Liners in steel baking ovens
  • Blankets surrounding steel smelting furnaces
  • Ladle covers
  • Boilers and steam pipes
  • Gaskets in pipe joints
  • Casting containers and hot blast stoves
  • Fireproof walls and separation panels
  • Refractory bricks on hot tops
  • Wall and roof insulation
  • Electric cable covers and breaker box liners
  • Paint, wallboard and finishes
  • Floor and ceiling tiles.

Steel mill workers required protective clothing, especially for those in close contact with hot molten metal. Steelworkers often wore fire and heatproof gear to shield them from burns and scalds.

These at-risk workers donned jackets, pants, coveralls, leggings, aprons, boots, gloves and masks made of fabrics woven from asbestos fibers.

High-Risk Steel Mill Occupations for Steel Mills

Some steel mill workers were at greater risk for asbestos exposure than others. Amounts of asbestos fiber exposure and the duration or time length workers were in an asbestos-filed environment varied from one job to the next.

Steel mill workers with the highest exposure risk were:

  • Molten steel pourers
  • Pot operators and tenders
  • Furnace operators
  • Pipefitters
  • Inspectors
  • Boilermakers
  • Plumbers
  • Electricians
  • Mechanical ventilation installers
  • Machine setters
  • Millwrights
  • Welders
  • Supervisors
  • Quality control personnel

Every steel mill worker exposed to airborne asbestos fibers was in danger of developing mesothelioma.

Did You Know?

Asbestos Exposure Was Part of Daily Work

When asbestos-based products were installed and left undisturbed, they were relatively safe. Sadly, that wasn’t the case in older steel mills.

Workers disturbed asbestos every day by drilling, sawing, sanding and shaping asbestos-containing products. They also wore asbestos protective equipment that constantly shed asbestos fibers around them.

When steel mill workers inhaled asbestos fibers, the microscopic shards fixed themselves to the linings of major organs (the mesothelium).

These mineral contaminants don’t break down in human tissue as organic impurities do. Asbestos fibers stay in the mesothelium forever. Eventually, scar tissue forms, and later turns into malignant tumors and mesothelioma.

Compensation for Steel Mill Workers with Mesothelioma

There’s no known cure for advanced mesothelioma. The only just recourse is to provide steel mill workers with compensation if they develop mesothelioma from workplace asbestos exposure.

Did You Know?

Asbestos Compensation Covers Expenses

Money is available to cover medical expenses, lost income and personal injury damages.

This compensation is awarded by taking legal action against the manufacturers of asbestos-containing products, who hid the dangers for decades.

Families may claim for relatives with mesothelioma as well as sue for wrongful death cases.

If you or someone you love was exposed to asbestos in a steel mill and got sick, you deserve compensation. Our team is standing by to assist you — see all the ways we help.

Mesothelioma Support Team
Stephanie KiddWritten by:

Editor-in-Chief

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 Justice Network, Stephanie serves as a voice for mesothelioma victims and their families.

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