Occupational Asbestos Exposure for Chemical Plant Workers
How Chemical Plant Workers Were Exposed to Asbestos on the Job
Historically, asbestos has been widely used in chemical plants due to its natural heat-resistance properties, as well as its natural resistance to chemical corrosion. As a result, chemical plant workers have long faced high rates of occupational asbestos exposure.
During much of the 20th Century, asbestos was used in the personal protective gear worn by chemical plant workers, including protective coverings, aprons, gloves, and fire blankets. It was also used in various structures within industrial processing facilities, such as laboratory countertops, insulation, and liners in laboratory ovens.
Asbestos was also widely used in the construction of these facilities. Everything from the insulation to the plumbing to the flooring and ceiling tiles, electrical wiring, and HVAC equipment in chemical plants has been found to contain asbestos. The installation, repair, replacement, and maintenance of these materials often led to the release of microscopic asbestos fibers, putting construction crews, maintenance workers, and others nearby at risk of inhaling or ingesting them. This is a known cause of numerous asbestos-related illnesses, including mesothelioma.
Chemical plant workers may have also been exposed to asbestos when making small repairs within the facility, producing products that contained asbestos, or even merely brushing against objects—such as pipes or gaskets—that contained asbestos, disturbing the asbestos and releasing fibers into the air.
Which Types of Chemical Plant Workers Were Exposed to Asbestos?
Anyone who worked in an industrial processing plant or who worked in the construction, maintenance, inspection, or supervision of such a facility may have been exposed to asbestos.
This includes but is not limited to:
- Chemical engineers
- Process engineers
- Chemical plant technicians
- Plant process supervisors
- Chemical plant operators
- Equipment operators
- Grinding machine operators
- Drill process operators
- Chemical plant maintenance workers
- Warehouse workers
- Assembly workers
If you or someone you love worked in a chemical plant and was later diagnosed with asbestos, pulmonary disease, mesothelioma, or another asbestos-related condition, reach out to the team at SWMW Law. We can help you understand your legal rights and options, including your right to seek fair compensation for your damages.
Are Chemical Plant Workers Still Exposed to Asbestos?
Though the risk is much lower now, chemical plant workers may still be exposed to asbestos on the job. The use of asbestos is not entirely banned in the United States, and many products continue to be manufactured with this harmful material.
Additionally, older facilities may still contain numerous asbestos products and structures. Old insulation, HVAC systems, plumbing pipes, gaskets, and other items may contain asbestos. If the asbestos in these items is disturbed, workers nearby could breathe in or ingest asbestos fibers. Furthermore, when these items are replaced, the process of removing them could lead to airborne asbestos fibers, which puts construction crews, workers, and others at risk.
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Like anyone else exposed to asbestos on the job, chemical plant workers who suffered occupational asbestos exposure are at an increased risk of developing certain asbestos-related health conditions.
The two most common and serious of these include:
- Mesothelioma: Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer that affects the protective lining surrounding the lungs, heart, and abdomen. It is caused by long-term exposure to asbestos fibers, which enter the body and cause genetic damage to cells. Unfortunately, this cancer typically has a poor prognosis as it is not often detected until its later stages.
- Asbestosis: Asbestosis is another serious illness that can be caused by exposure to asbestos fibers. It is a chronic, progressive lung disease that occurs when tiny asbestos particles are inhaled. Asbestosis causes scarring of the lung tissue and can lead to shortness of breath, coughing, chest pain, and other respiratory problems.
In addition, chemical workers exposed to asbestos are at risk of developing other respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses, such as bronchitis, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Asbestos fibers can also damage the digestive system and lead to digestive problems, such as ulcers and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Occupational asbestos exposure may also lead to various forms of cancer, including:
- Lung cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Laryngeal cancer
- Pharyngeal cancer
- Colon cancer
- Stomach cancer
Workers may suffer from a range of nonmalignant asbestos-related illnesses, such as hyaline pleural plaques, atelectasis, pericardial effusion, peritoneal effusion, pleural effusion, and pleural thickening.
How Common Is Occupational Asbestos Exposure in Chemical Plant Workers?
A study published in the British Medical Journal in 2015 examined the prevalence of asbestos-related fatalities among Belgian workers between 2001 and 2009. The research findings revealed that individuals employed in chemical plants have a nearly threefold increased risk of succumbing to mesothelioma compared to the average citizen.
In another extensive study spanning 35 years (from 1953 to 1988), Occupational Medicine detailed the working conditions and health outcomes of employees at a Norwegian electrochemical factory involved in producing nitric acid. The investigation discovered that those responsible for packing the incinerator joints were subjected to alarmingly elevated levels of asbestos dust.
The study also highlighted that continuous maintenance work was conducted on the plant's 79 incinerators, resulting in daily exposure to asbestos for the workers. The process of replacing old, dry packing material in the incinerator hull generated vast quantities of asbestos dust. This was further exacerbated by the warm, arid environment within the incinerator, contributing to heightened risks for those laboring in such conditions.
During the 1970s, an extensive investigation was conducted involving numerous employees from various chemical plants. The study aimed to evaluate the health status of these workers by examining their chest x-rays for potential signs of asbestos-related anomalies. Among the observed abnormalities were small, irregular opacities and alterations in the pleura, which are the two membranes that cover the lungs.
Subsequently, detailed, cross-sectional research was performed on 185 maintenance workers employed in a large-scale chemical production facility. The in-depth analysis revealed a concerning prevalence of asbestos symptoms and precancerous conditions among the participants. Nearly 60% of the workers under examination displayed clinical manifestations associated with these diseases, possibly related to occupational asbestos exposure.
Damages for Chemical Plant Workers Who Were Exposed to Asbestos on the Job
Chemical plant workers who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestos, and other asbestos-related health conditions after being exposed to asbestos on the job are entitled to financial compensation for their damages.
Such damages may include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost income/wages
- Loss of earning ability
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Financial losses
- In-home assistance/care
- Funeral/burial expenses
- Loss of support
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of love, companionship, guidance, counsel, etc.
At SWMW Law, we help chemical plant workers who have been exposed to asbestos fight for the fair compensation they are owed. Our attorneys are prepared to discuss your case and answer any questions you may have during a free, initial consultation.
You can reach us online or by phone at (855) 744-1922.
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