Industrial Workers

Industrial Workers and Asbestos Exposure

Occupational Asbestos Exposure for Industrial Workers

For much of the 20th century, asbestos played an important role in industrial settings. It could be found in a variety of industrial products, as well as in machinery, building materials, and protective equipment that needed to resist high temperatures and provide protection against corrosive substances.

As a result, industrial workers in factories and other facilities involved in specialized production were regularly exposed to asbestos. This exposure, especially at industrial levels, greatly increased workers’ risks of developing life-altering diseases such as mesothelioma and lung cancer. 

SWMW Law is a nationally recognized trial practice known for fighting on behalf of victims and families who’ve suffered losses due to occupational asbestos exposure. If you or someone you love were an industrial worker and later contracted mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, we can help explore your options for recovering compensation. 

SWMW Law proudly serves industrial workers and families nationwide. Call (855) 744-1922 or contact us online for a FREE consultation.

How Industrial Workers Were Exposed to Asbestos

As a critical part of our nation’s workforce, industrial workers performed their jobs in factories, plants, and facilities filled with potential hazards, including heat, chemicals, and heavy machinery. However, as we know today, industrial settings posed another major hazard to laborers and trades workers: asbestos.

In fact, asbestos was so prevalent in industrial settings during the 20th century that industrial workers are now recognized as one of the leading at-risk occupations for asbestos exposure and the development of asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma and lung cancer. 

Industrial occupations associated with an elevated asbestos exposure risk include:

  • Mechanics 
  • Millwrights
  • Machinists
  • Welders
  • Textile workers
  • Factory workers
  • Smelters
  • Forepersons
  • Assembly line workers 
  • Bricklayers
  • Chemical plant workers 
  • Construction workers
  • Line managers 
  • Machine operators 
  • Maintenance technicians 
  • Plant operators 
  • Plumbers and pipefitters 
  • Production engineers 
  • Welders

These and other industrial workers faced pronounced risks of asbestos exposure in the course of their employment – from the materials and machines they used to the buildings they worked in and the personal protective equipment (PPE) they wore. 

Favored for its durability and resistance to heat and corrosion, asbestos was the mineral of choice for insulation. And given the high temperatures and corrosive chemicals used in factories and plants, it was found in a variety of products used by industrial workers, including pipe coverings, gaskets, valves, caulking compounds, refractory cement, plastics, pumps, and more. 

Industrial workers handled these asbestos-containing products regularly, as they were often necessary to the performance of their job duties. Laborers in oil refineries, for example, used asbestos-insulated gaskets to construct piping systems that transported crude oil.  Workers in metalworking factories used asbestos-containing metal molds and casts. Workers in some factories, including those that manufactured building materials and other products in which asbestos was used as an additive, also handled raw asbestos and asbestos products at various points in the production process.

Industrial workers may be exposed to asbestos in the following ways: 

  • Installing, repairing, or replacing asbestos-containing materials 
  • Maintaining products or equipment that contains asbestos 
  • Operating machinery that contains asbestos 
  • Using power tools or machinery to cut, drill, score, or grind asbestos-containing materials
  • Wearing PPE that contains asbestos-treated materials
  • Working in poorly ventilated areas in which asbestos was present 

Another source of asbestos exposure for industrial workers came from the factories and plants in which they worked. These facilities were large environments with special functions and were filled with building materials, specialized machinery, and large-scale plumbing, boilers, and HVAC and piping systems that were riddled with asbestos. As such, the exposure risk was high for mechanics, trades workers, and maintenance workers who operated or serviced these systems, especially if they were required to cut, remove, or otherwise disturb asbestos-containing materials, which releases asbestos fibers into the air where they can be inhaled or ingested. Many industrial facilities in the past also lacked adequate ventilation, thereby exacerbating the risks posed by airborne asbestos dust. 

In addition to asbestos-containing products, machinery, and buildings, many industrial workers were also exposed to asbestos found in PPE. This includes gloves, aprons, fireproof pants, and jackets that contained asbestos and asbestos-treated textiles. 

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Sources of Asbestos Exposure for Industrial Workers

Workers in factories, manufacturing plants, and other industrial environments in the early to late 20th century faced innumerable sources of asbestos exposure. While specific products and materials varied from industry to industry and the scope of a factory’s work, there is no mistake about it – industrial workplaces were full of asbestos.

Some examples of asbestos-containing products that industrial workers handled, used, or encountered on the job include:

  • Construction materials, including joint compounds. 
  • Machinery/equipment insulation 
  • Thermal Pipe and Block Insulation
  • Spray-on insulation/raw asbestos
  • Defective PPE, including masks
  • Valves, Pumps and Gaskets
  • Cements 
  • Asbestos paper, wraps, and packing 

Nearly every company that owned or oversaw industrial plants and factories used asbestos-containing products up until the 1980s when U.S. regulators began to curtail the use of asbestos.

But despite the move away from asbestos, industrial workplaces today still contain materials, machinery, and equipment that contain the harmful mineral. This “legacy asbestos” continues to threaten the health of industrial workers today, especially those who service, repair, or replace materials that contain aging asbestos, which is more likely to release harmful fibers into the air when disturbed. 

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Studies Link Industrial Work to Increased Mesothelioma Risks

Researchers have known since the early 20th century that asbestos had serious health risks, and studies conducted in the decades since have built upon those findings.

Today, we know that exposure to asbestos is the only cause of mesothelioma and that exposure in occupational settings is the leading cause of asbestos-related disease. Science also tells us people who worked in certain professions – including industrial workers – are more likely to develop mesothelioma, cancer, and other chronic health conditions due to their exposure to asbestos on the job.

Some examples of studies linking industrial work to increased health risks include:

  • A 2015 study published in the Occupational Environmental Medicine Journal found industrial workers are 4x more likely to develop pleural mesothelioma than people who did not perform industrial jobs. Pleural mesothelioma, which forms in the lining of the lung, is the most common form of asbestos-related cancer.
  • A 1978 study found high rates of malignant mesothelioma among women who lived with men who worked in asbestos-related industries. The study, which built on evidence about secondary take-home exposure, found evidence of asbestos contamination throughout industrial workers’ homes and concluded that marriage to an asbestos-exposed worker was the single greatest risk factor in developing mesothelioma apart from occupational exposure. 
  • A 1999 study whose data was published by the CDC found, of all studied occupations, industrial and chemical workers had the highest rate of mesothelioma mortality. The data also showed an increased risk of peritoneal mesothelioma among workers in industrial occupations. 

Compensation for Industrial Workers Exposed to Asbestos

Mesothelioma diagnoses change the lives of victims and families profoundly and can result in significant emotional distress and financial loss.

Fortunately, victims who developed mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other asbestos-related diseases due to their past employment may have options to recover compensation for their losses. This includes:

  • Claims filed with asbestos trust funds. Industrial workers may be able to seek compensation through special funds established when companies that knowingly manufactured and distributed asbestos-containing products filed bankruptcy, reorganized, or went out of business.
  • Personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits. Industrial workers and their families may be able to pursue civil claims against solvent companies that negligently produced, distributed, or used asbestos and endangered workers. 

Companies knew for decades about the dangers of asbestos exposure but continued to manufacture, distribute, and use asbestos-containing products without providing adequate warning to consumers and workers who routinely handled them. As such, civil and asbestos trust claims offer victims and families an opportunity to hold asbestos companies and liable corporations accountable for their negligence, as well as a meaningful source of financial compensation.

If you or someone you love were diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer, or another asbestos-related health condition after working as laborer or trades worker in any type of factory, plant, or industrial workplace, legal action may help you recover compensation for:

  • Medical bills and future medical expenses
  • Lost income and financial support
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional injuries suffered by loved ones
  • Other economic and non-economic losses

SWMW Law has extensive experience helping industrial workers and their families in the fight for justice and the resources to take on powerful corporations and insurance carriers. If you have questions about your options and whether you have a potential case, we’re ready to help. 

Learn more about your rights and legal options.

Call For a FREE Consultation: (855) 744-1922

SWMW Law is a renowned plaintiffs practice with a successful track record of litigating mesothelioma and asbestos cases for workers in high-risk occupations, including industrial workers. We know how to help victims and families level the playing field with powerful corporations and have recovered more than $750 million in compensation for our clients.

If you or a loved one are a current or former industrial worker who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, we want to help. Call (855) 744-1922 or contact us online for a free consultation.

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