Chemical plant workers face higher risks of developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases than workers in other types of occupations.
From industrial maintenance workers and tradesmen to chemical plant mixers and operators, nearly every person who worked in a chemical processing or manufacturing plant prior to the late 20th century was exposed to asbestos. That’s because asbestos was widely used in specialized machinery, equipment, chemical piping, and industrial labs, in addition to being a common additive to many chemical mixes and compounds.
At SWMW Law, our award-winning attorneys have extensive experience representing victims diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other asbestos-related conditions due to their work in chemical plants and other high-risk occupations. If you have questions about your legal options, we want to help.
SWMW Law serves victims and families nationwide and offers FREE consultations. Call (855) 744-1922 or contact us online to speak with a lawyer.
How Chemical Plant Workers Were Exposed to Asbestos on the Job
Chemical plants include a range of industrial facilities that manufacture or process chemicals on a large scale. While these facilities may produce different compounds or use different raw materials – such as raw asbestos or talc – they all utilized specialized technologies and asbestos-containing equipment to produce their end chemical products.
Workers in the chemical manufacturing industry were, and sometimes continue to be, exposed to elevated levels of asbestos and other associated health risks while on the job. Industrial maintenance workers, pipefitters and plumbers, insulators, boilermakers, millwrights, welders, and laborers commonly worked with asbestos fiber and asbestos-containing equipment and products in chemical plants.
Some examples of asbestos exposure sources in chemical plants include:
Machinery, Equipment & Other Products
Workers in chemical plants were routinely exposed to asbestos in materials used as part of their daily work. That’s not only because asbestos was common in a lot of industrial machinery components built prior to 1980, but also because it was frequently utilized in industrial chemical laboratory settings due to the specialized equipment needed to resist heat and chemical corrosion.
Some examples of asbestos-containing equipment and products in chemical plants include:
- Insulated Tanks, Vessels, and Vats
- Furnaces and Other Heat-Treating Equipment
- Acid and Caustic Chemical Pipe and Fittings
- Lab Ovens and Related Equipment
- Raw Asbestos and Talc Fibers
- Mixing Machines
- Steam-Jacketed Kettles
- Sealants and Adhesives
- Stoves and Burners
- Pumps, Valves, and Compressors
- Gaskets and Packing
- Millboards, Insulated Pads, and Heat Panels
While nearly every worker in chemical plants was likely exposed decades ago to asbestos during the course of their employment, workers who directly handled, disassembled, repaired, or installed asbestos-containing equipment, or mixed raw asbestos or talc, may have had greater exposure risks. In addition, engineers and inspectors at these chemical plants and facilities often had bystander exposure to asbestos even if they were not working directly on, or with, asbestos-containing products.
Protective Clothing / PPE
Due to the high heat settings in chemical plants, chemical plant workers and industrial lab technicians often wore asbestos-containing personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves, aprons, and pads. Once these items became worn or damaged, they posed additional risk of asbestos exposure to the workers who wore them.
Facility & Building Materials
Chemical plants built prior to 1980, like other industrial facilities, were constructed with various asbestos-containing materials and equipment, including insulation, piping systems, joint compounds, and HVAC and plumbing systems. Workers who performed jobs near these materials or equipment, and especially those who worked hands-on with them, would routinely be exposed to asbestos.
Common sources of asbestos-containing building materials found in chemical plants include:
- Ceiling Tiles
- Floor Tiles
- Drywall and Joint Compounds
- Fireproofing Sprays
Chemical plant workers in some facilities may have been required to handle raw asbestos or talc in their day-to-day operations, as the mineral was widely used in the manufacturing of various products and chemical compounds, including basic chemicals, plastics, cleaning compounds, artificial fibers, resins, and more.
Because asbestos is most dangerous when it is disturbed and present in the air, handling, pouring, scooping, and carrying raw asbestos or talc would have presented an extremely high exposure risk.
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Given the many potential sources of asbestos exposure in chemical plants, studies throughout the years have confirmed chemical plant workers have a higher incidence rate of mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other asbestos-related health conditions than the general population. For example:
- A 2016 study published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health found people who worked at an asbestos processing plant in Tyler, Texas between 1954 and 1972 were 244% more likely to die from throat or lung cancer than people who did not.
- A 2015 study published in the British Medical Journal found chemical plant workers were nearly three times more likely to die of mesothelioma than the general population.
- In 1987, a study examining asbestos-related diseases among 153 electrochemical plant workers found that nearly a quarter of workers had lung fibrosis, which is associated with a higher risk of asbestos cancer.
- In the late 1970s, a study that examined chest X-rays from several groups of chemical plant workers revealed asbestos-related abnormalities and pleural changes in some participants. The study also examined 185 maintenance workers from a single chemical plant and found that over 60% of those workers had symptoms of asbestos-related diseases.
Which Types of Chemical Plant Workers Were Exposed to Asbestos?
Anyone who worked in a chemical manufacturing or processing plant, as well as people who worked in the construction, maintenance, inspection, or supervision of such facilities, may have been exposed to asbestos.
This includes but is not limited to:
- Industrial Maintenance Workers
- Pipefitters and Plumbers
- Chemical Plant Mixers and Operators
- Engineers and Inspectors
- Lab Technicians
While risks have decreased in the decades since asbestos use was limited by the U.S. government, workers in chemical plants today still face exposure risks from working with older equipment, working in older buildings with asbestos-containing materials, and servicing or repairing older facilities and machinery, including removal and tear-out of old asbestos-containing equipment.
Compensation for Chemical Plant Workers Exposed to Asbestos
If you or your loved one were diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer, or another asbestos-related disease, past employment in a chemical plant could become the basis of a claim for compensation.
Because hundreds of companies used asbestos in their facilities and products despite knowing about its dangers, workers who’ve developed mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other cancers and health conditions caused by asbestos exposure have the right to hold these companies liable for their damages. This may include compensation for:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Lost income and future earnings
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional injuries suffered by loved ones
- Other economic and non-economic losses
At SWMW Law, our legal team has extensive experience representing chemical plant workers and other victims of occupational asbestos exposure in legal actions that seek the maximum financial recovery possible. This includes claims seeking compensation from asbestos bankruptcy trusts established by companies that reorganized or went out of business, as well as civil lawsuits against solvent companies that used asbestos and negligently endangered workers.
Because every case is different, the best way to evaluate your available options and the potential value of your case is to have it reviewed personally by an attorney from our firm.
SWMW Law is an award-winning trial practice known nationally for championing the rights of workers diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other cancers and health conditions caused by their exposure to asbestos in the workplace. We’re backed by over 100 years of collective experience and have recovered more than $750 million in compensation for our clients.
If you have questions about a potential case involving prior work in a chemical plant or the chemical manufacturing industry, we want to help. Call (855) 744-1922 or contact us online for a FREE consultation. We serve clients nationwide.
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