Asbestos Exposure in the Steel Industry

asbestos exposure in the steel industry

Asbestos Exposure in the Steel Industry

Most people exposed to asbestos were exposed either on jobs where they worked with or around asbestos or in a household environment where they were exposed to products or clothing containing asbestos.

A 2015 British study of Belgian steelworkers found that almost one-fifth of them exhibited signs of significant asbestos exposure. Lung tissue samples for five workers found between 260,000 and 11 million fibers per gram of dry tissue.

These significant exposure levels to asbestos show a positive correlation to asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma and lung cancer. Steel manufacturing workers are almost three times more likely to die of mesothelioma than the general population.

How Were Steelworkers Exposed to Asbestos?

Steel mills used asbestos materials from the 1920s until late 1980s. Most American steel mills used asbestos-containing materials. Asbestos had excellent insulation properties. It did not transfer heat well, so high-temperature areas used it extensively.

In the older steel mills, workers disturbed asbestos every day by drilling, sawing, sanding, and shaping asbestos-containing products.

They also wore asbestos protective equipment that always shed asbestos fibers around them.

High-Risk Occupations at a Steel Mill

Some steel mill workers are at greater risk for asbestos exposure. The amount of asbestos fiber exposure and the duration workers were in an asbestos-filed environment varies from one job to another. However, every steel mill worker exposed to airborne asbestos fibers is in danger of developing mesothelioma.

Workers with the highest exposure risk:

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

Asbestos-Containing Products in Steel Mills  

Steel manufacturing doesn’t use asbestos directly as a component. However, Many steel companies built facilities that made extensive use of materials containing asbestos.

The Blast furnace melting and other high-heat processes used asbestos for heat shielding and insulation. Steel manufacturing generates a lot of noise, so asbestos was used in machinery and equipment as sound-proofing. Asbestos was also woven into the protective clothing given to workers to avoid burns.

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.

Some of the largest steel companies went bankrupt due to the number of lawsuits filed. As part of the agreement to accept bankruptcy, the court made the companies establish trust funds to compensate steel mill workers that developed asbestos-related diseases from occupational exposure.

You can initiate legal action for asbestos exposure in the steel industry to obtain compensation for yourself or a relative, whether alive or deceased, by consulting the Goldberg, Persky & White law firm today!

“When is Asbestos Dangerous?” [link]
Schiffman, George, “Mesothelioma Facts” [Link]
Van den Borre, L. & Deboosere, P, “Enduring health effects of asbestos use in Belgian industries: a record-linked cohort study of cause-specific mortality” (June 24, 2015) [link]

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