Plant Workers Asbestos Exposure
Although most new asbestos use was curtailed by the late 1970s, plant workers continue to develop new asbestos-related illnesses due to the latency period of these conditions and continued asbestos exposure through older industrial equipment, building materials, and asbestos screens in the chlor-alkali industry. The Lanier Law Firm helps asbestos plant workers with mesothelioma recover substantial compensation.
During most of the 1900s, plant workers encountered asbestos on a daily basis because the product was considered a miracle mineral. Asbestos is fire-resistant, non-conductive, chemically inert, strong, flexible, lightweight, and inexpensive. This made the product useful in nearly every component of chemical plants, power plants, and manufacturing plants.
Plant workers who worked directly with asbestos experienced the highest exposure levels, but virtually all workers in asbestos-dependent plants experienced exposure. If you were exposed to asbestos as a plant worker, The Lanier Law Firm can help you recover the mesothelioma compensation you deserve.
Asbestos Exposure in Chemical Plants
Asbestos was heavily used in the chemical industry because it was anti-corrosive and resistant to most chemicals. It was useful for the following applications:
- Diaphragms used for electrolysis
- Strengtheners in polymers, cement, and other materials
- Protection of equipment from chemicals and heat
- Insulation in wires, boilers, turbines, and buildings
- Sealing material for gaskets in valves, flanges, and industrial machinery
Chemical companies that used asbestos include the following:
- BP Amoco Chemical Company
- Baker Chemical, Inc.
- Bayer Corporation/Mobay Chemical Company
- Chevron Phillips
- Ciba Specialty Chemicals Corp.
- Hercules Chemical Company, Inc.
- Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corporation
- Pharmacia Corporation/Monsanto Company
- Plastics Engineering Company
- The Dow Chemical Company
- U.S. Steel Corporation/USS Chemical
The chemical industry is largely responsible for asbestos continuing to be legal in the United States today. In 1989, the Environmental Protection Agency banned most uses of asbestos. Chemical companies fought hard against the ban, and in 1991, they prevailed when the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned it.
The EPA proposed a new asbestos ban in 2022, but the chemical industry is expected to fight the new ban because it still uses asbestos today in the chlor-alkali industry.
The Chlor-Alkali Industry
The chlor-alkali industry uses asbestos diaphragms to separate anode and cathode chemicals in electrolysis while producing chlorine and sodium hydroxide. Approximately two-thirds of chemical plants use alternatives, but the industry continues its fight against change, insisting that it will disrupt the nation’s chlorine supply and result in a shortage of water, pharmaceuticals, and other essentials.
The EPA disagrees. The two companies that still use asbestos diaphragms have voluntarily closed some of their plants and reduced capacity at others without disrupting the supply chain. These companies, Occidental Chemical Company, also known as Oxychem, and Olin Corporation, simply do not want to spend the money to transition to safer chlorine production methodologies.
Extreme Asbestos Exposure Reported by Workers
Despite the companies’ claims that they use stringent standards to keep workers safe, chlor-alkali plant workers told Propublica another story. Workers in the Niagara Falls Oxychem plant in New York reported their clothing being covered in asbestos dust and seeing inches of dry asbestos dust throughout the facilities until the plant closed in late 2021.
Workers were required to pressure wash large asbestos screens, resulting in asbestos being sprayed everywhere. The workers’ clothes would become caked with wet asbestos, and it would dry and flake off everywhere they went.
This clothing was worn throughout the plant. Doors and windows to work areas with asbestos were left open to prevent the workers from overheating, and only designated workers wore protective gear, and only during specific activities. Workers wore the asbestos-contaminated clothing home, exposing their spouses and children.
In 1996, OSHA admitted OxyChem into its Star Program, which exempts it from annual inspections. This has enabled the company to subject workers to the worst conditions. During the few inspections that have occurred, OSHA found serious violations but allowed the company to remain in the program.
The chlor-alkali industry currently has eight facilities in four states that still use asbestos diaphragms:
Similar conditions have been observed in Alabama at an Olin plant, where one worker was told to scrape asbestos off of equipment using a putty knife. His supervisor failed to instruct him to wear protective clothing. When the worker objected, the supervisor told him it wasn’t “that bad.”
Asbestos Exposure in Power Plants
Power plants used asbestos in a variety of insulating materials due to its fireproof and thermal insulating properties on equipment that could reach extreme temperatures, including the following:
Asbestos was also used in walls, ceilings, and flooring. Most coal power plants were built before 1990, as were many nuclear and electricity-generating power plants, which means these facilities likely contain asbestos in building components today.
When the asbestos in these components is disturbed through normal wear, sanding, drilling, or cutting, the asbestos particles may be released into the air, where they can be inhaled or ingested.
Power Plant Companies
Asbestos Exposure in Manufacturing Plants
Most manufacturing plants are small, specialized factories that produce a single product. Larger plants are typically owned by one of a handful of large manufacturers. Factories are a type of plant that focus on production of products for market.
Asbestos plant workers generally processed raw asbestos or used asbestos in specialized products, such as the following:
- Friction products, especially for the automotive industry
- Paper mills
- Asbestos cement pipe
- Asbestos gaskets and packing
- Asbestos textiles
- Asbestos millboard
- Asbestos floor tiles
- Asbestos cement sheets
- Plastics and resins
- Coatings and sealants
Plants that produce asbestos-cement products tend to be larger, while paper mills and friction product plants tend to be smaller.
The following companies owned and operated manufacturing plants that processed asbestos or asbestos-containing products:
- A.W. Chesterton
- Albany International Corp.
- Asten Johnson, Inc.
- Brandon Drying Fabrics, Inc.
- F.B. Wright Company
- Geschmay Corporation
- Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company
- Honeywell International, Inc./Allied Signal
- Industrial Holdings Corporation
- John Crane, Inc.
- Mount Vernon Mills, Inc.
- Parker-Hannifin Corporation
- Plastics Engineering Company
- Resinoid Engineering
- Scapa Dryer Fabrics, Inc.
- Stando Industries/Sterling Packing & Gasket Company
- Union Carbide Corporation
- Xerium Technologies, Inc.
How does asbestos exposure impact plant worker health?
The risk of developing an asbestos-related illness increases with increased levels of exposure over extended periods of time. Plant workers were and in many cases still are exposed to exceptionally high levels of asbestos. A study of 18 power plant workers in New York revealed that 14 had lung abnormalities on imaging tests that could indicate scarring of the lungs.
After one worker was diagnosed with asbestosis, 200 additional workers were slated to be tested. While there are no studies to show what percentage of power plant workers develop mesothelioma or other asbestos-related illnesses, power plant workers are in one of the highest-risk occupations, according to the Moffitt Cancer Center.
How can The Lanier Law Firm help with my mesothelioma claim?
If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness as a result of occupational asbestos exposure while working in an asbestos plant, the mesothelioma attorneys at The Lanier Law Firm may be able to help you recover substantial compensation through an asbestos exposure lawsuit or a workers’ compensation claim.
In many cases, you may be eligible to file multiple mesothelioma claims. Plant workers may be exposed to asbestos through products and materials that were supplied to the employer by outside companies. At The Lanier Law Firm, we can identify these companies for you and ensure you pursue all the compensation to which you are entitled.
Asbestos Trust Fund Claims
Numerous companies that owned asbestos plants or supplied products to them became insolvent as their asbestos liabilities accumulated. In response, they reorganized under Chapter 11 Bankruptcy and established asbestos trust funds. This includes the following companies:
- Harbison-Walker Refractories Company
- J.T. Thorpe
- Keene Corporation
- Kellogg Brown & Root, Inc.
- Leslie Controls
- North American Refractories Company
- Porter Hayden
Our mesothelioma lawyers can identify any trust funds for which you qualify and file your claims on your behalf.
The Lanier Law Firm Helps Asbestos Plant Workers Get the Results They Need
We are nationally recognized mesothelioma attorneys with a proven track record of consistent successful results. Our law firm has more than 25 years of experience helping plant workers get justice against the companies that wrongfully exposed them to asbestos. Contact The Lanier Law Firm today for a free case evaluation.