Steel Mill Asbestos Exposure: How Do Steel Mills and Refineries Use Asbestos?
As a low-cost mineral that’s renowned for its insulation properties and heat tolerance, asbestos haslong been widely used in a variety of different industrial settings, including steel mills and metalrefineries.
Refineries and steel mills have historically used asbestos for many different applications, which means that these employees face many potential risks in this already-dangerous industrial environment.
The most obvious asbestos use involves the heat-generating equipment and other nearby components that are exposed to high temperatures. This includes ovens, furnaces and boilers, steam pipes, rolling mills, cranes, blast stoves, crucibles and molding boards.
Asbestos was also a common material used in heat protection equipment and garments, including asbestos garments such as coats, coveralls, leggings, gloves and aprons. Asbestos face masks were also fairly commonplace, as were asbestos blankets. These protective asbestos garments were commonly used by individuals who worked in the immediate area of molten metals and furnaces.
Asbestos was also used in many different areas of the actual steel mill or steel refinery structure, as it can resist high temperatures and prevent fire. Asbestos could be commonly found throughout steel mills in refractory bricks, wall board, floor tiles, ceiling tiles and beyond.
Who is at the Highest Risk of Steel Mill Asbestos Exposure?
Steel was at the core of the industrial revolution and it was this need that drove the steel industry, ultimately leaving thousands exposed to asbestos. It was the period from World War II through the late 1970s when a majority of asbestos exposure incidents occurred in steel refineries and mills.
Even today, steel — which is a blend of carbon and iron — is needed for everything from car parts, to building materials and beyond. Steel workers who work in a mill or refinery that was built prior to the 1980s still have a high risk of asbestos exposure as these structures have been outfitted with asbestos insulation, asbestos cement and asbestos fireproofing (amongst other asbestos-tainted materials).
Steel mills and steel refineries are settings where you can find many potential asbestos exposure dangers, with some of the following individuals at the highest risk:
- Refinery workers
- Steel mill employees working around molten metal
- Refinery equipment maintenance staff and machinists
- Pipefitters and other workers who contact pipework
- Motor inspectors and maintenance staff tending to cranes and other motorized vehicles/equipment
- Refinery and Steel Mill Millwrights
Some steel mills and refineries are served by a railroad, which leads from the mining site to the refinery or steel mill. This railroad poses additional risks of asbestos exposure. Railroad asbestos exposure can occur in many ways, but those at highest risk are those who are exposed to the brake dust, those who work around the boiler or engine room, and workers who maintain piping (especially piping with asbestos seals, gaskets and insulation.)
Also at risk of asbestos exposure are family members of steel mill and refinery workers. Second-hand exposure can occur when the fine asbestos dust and fibers cling to an individual’s clothing or hair. If these fibers or dust particles are released into the air or environment, they can be inhaled or ingested by others.
Notably, there is no “safe” threshold for asbestos exposure. Any amount of exposure to asbestos can cause illness and injury. There are many different so-called asbestos diseases, including pleurisy, asbestosis, mesothelioma lung cancer, pleural plaques, pleural effusion, pleural thickening and COPD, among others.
According to some estimates, as many as 90,000 individuals could potentially be at risk of asbestos exposure in steel mills and refineries nationwide.
Studies on Steel Mill Asbestos Exposure and Its Effects
Steel mill and refinery asbestos exposure has been the subject of a number of research studies worldwide.
One study involving Belgian steel mill workers revealed that these individuals had a higher than average number of illness. This was especially true for those who worked on the production line and in maintenance.
Another research study, performed by Dr. William Blot, led to the discovery of numerous cases of asbestosis — a disease associated exclusively with asbestos exposure — in steel mill workers. The sick workers were described as pipe coverers.
The steel industry is one profession that has a definitive link to asbestos exposure and mesothelioma. According to the Mesothelioma Registry of the Province of Brescia, nearly 300 subjects reported asbestos exposure and a total of 55 reportedly spent five years or more working in the steel industry.
Post-mortem exams were conducted on a number of individuals and significant quantities of asbestos fibers were found in multiple subjects.
Steel Mill Asbestos Lawsuits
There have been a number of mesothelioma claims and asbestos lawsuits involving steel mills and refineries, including U.S. Steel and LTV Steel. The latter filed for bankruptcy in the mid-1980s amidst a slew of asbestos claims and mesothelioma lawsuits.
LTV Steel, like others, used asbestos insulation and asbestos fireproofing materials.
Steel mill and refinery-related asbestos and mesothelioma lawsuits have also been filed against Keystone Steel & Wire Company, Weirton Steel, USX Corporation, Wheeling Pittsburg Steel Corp, AK Steel and the Porter Hayden Company, among others.
Helping Steel Mill and Refinery Employees With Occupational Asbestos Exposure
Steel mill and refineries are inherently dangerous workplace environments due to the heat, chemicals and equipment. But many were not informed about the real dangers of the asbestos that they encountered on the job, while other workers were not provided with proper protective equipment to protect them from occupational asbestos exposure.
If you or a loved one were exposed to asbestos in a steel mill or refinery environment, you may be eligible for financial compensation from an asbestos trust fund or another source of mesothelioma financial assistance.. Others may opt to work with an asbestos lawyer to file a mesothelioma lawsuit claim in order to get the financial compensation they need to maximize quality of life and obtain the best possible care.
At MesoWatch, we’re committed to providing mesothelioma patients and others suffering from the effects of asbestos exposure with information, resources and access to legal professionals who can provide a free and confidential case evaluation.
It’s important to take immediate action, though, because the law limits the timeframe for filing asbestos claims and obtaining mesothelioma compensation. This, combined with the fast-moving nature of mesothelioma cancer, underscores the importance of connecting with an experienced mesothelioma lawyer who can provide prompt guidance and assistance.