Prolonged asbestos exposure has been linked to dangerous and deadly health conditions as early as the 1930s. These asbestos-related illnesses include asbestosis and various cancers, including malignant lung cancer and mesothelioma. Below we will explore how different work industries may come into contact with asbestos.
Auto Mechanic Asbestos Exposure
For much of the 20th century, asbestos was still a frequently used material in creating auto parts. In fact, it’s still used in many auto products, including brake components, clutch facings, and certain thermal coatings. For auto mechanics, asbestos exposure typically occurs when replacing, removing, or repairing asbestos-containing parts or when cleaning up afterward.
Automotive industry locations that have a high risk of asbestos exposure:
- Repair or maintenance shops
- Manufacturing plants
- Restoration facilities
- Auto parts shops
- Home garages
- Hobby garages
- Cargo bays
Parts & products that may contain asbestos:
- Brake pads, linings, housings, drums, and shoes
- Heat seals, shields, and insulation
- Exhaust systems and pipes
- Engine and electrical insulation
- Front-wheel drive components
- Valve rings and torque valves
- Gasket material and packing
- Hood lining
Diesel Technician Asbestos Exposure
Diesel technicians are responsible for taking care of anything that is running off of a diesel engine. That includes freighter trucks, civilian trucks, school buses, travel buses, bulldozers, steamrollers, cranes, and more. And just like auto mechanics, diesel technicians have a higher-than-average chance of being exposed to asbestos through their work with diesel truck engines, parts, and materials. (Please refer to the above list: “Parts & products that may contain asbestos” for examples.)
Typical diesel technician duties that increase the risk for asbestos exposure:
- Inspecting diesel vehicles
- Removing, repairing, and replacing parts, especially brake systems
- Using power tools on engine parts
- Cleaning engine components
- Performing maintenance on exhaust and electrical systems
Steel Plant Workers Asbestos Exposure
If you know anything about working with metal, you know that insanely high temperatures are vital to the entire process. Specifically, in steel plants, employees work with temperatures ranging from 842°F to 2375°F to create, mold, temper, cast, and weld various metals. Typical steel plant workers include welders, smelters, blacksmiths, foundry workers, forgemen, ironworkers, tinsmiths, sheet metal workers, structural metal craftsmen, and more. Because of their proximity to such dangerous temperatures, workers require thermal protection to protect them from the heat. Unfortunately, this means that they are consistently exposed to asbestos-containing products, parts, and materials.
Asbestos has been used abundantly in steel plant manufacturing processes as insulations and thermal protections for the better half of the 20th century. It was also used for heat-proofing certain equipment, including ovens, casting molds, blast stoves, furnaces, tanks, boilers, smelters, and welding torches. In fact, asbestos was even used in protective items such as heat-resistant gloves, aprons, blankets, helmets, facemasks, and chaps, which created one of the most direct exposure methods for steel plant workers. Additional asbestos-contaminated materials that metal workers may encounter include cement, bricks, piping insulation, heat-resistant coatings, and gaskets on machinery.
Unfortunately, many if not most of these items are still used in steel plants. As a result, workers can be exposed to asbestos when using any of the tools, equipment, or materials mentioned above, especially when the items are worn, cut, or damaged in any way. This would expose the microscopic fibers in the items to the air resulting in an increased risk of inhalation.
If you presently work or have worked in any of the below Michigan steel plants, you may have been exposed to or be at risk of asbestos exposure.
- Great Lakes Steel
- Zug Island
- J&L Steel
- Rouge Steel
- Kelsey Hayes
Chemical Workers Asbestos Exposure
Chemical plants commonly utilized asbestos in safeguarding their machinery from exposure to dangerous temperatures and hazardous chemicals. Some chemical plants even used asbestos in some of their products. Unfortunately, this use has put all employees that have worked or are still working in older, still-operating plants in danger of asbestos exposure.
Asbestos was used as insulation for boilers, furnaces, extruders, pipes, ovens, driers, pumps, and even the building itself. As mentioned above, with steel plant workers, personal protective equipment such as gloves, bibs, aprons, masks, and more also contained asbestos fibers as the material is highly resistant to heat. Chemical workers can also find asbestos in the building cement, various adhesives, ceiling tiles, paints, and gaskets.
Today, the most significant exposure to asbestos that chemical workers face is in repairing, replacing, and removing asbestos-containing parts and materials or interacting with damaged asbestos-containing items. These situations cause the dangerous microscopic asbestos fibers to become airborne, which dramatically increases the risk of inhalation for employees in the workplace until the fibers are either inhaled or transported unknowingly elsewhere.
Our team at Serling & Abramson has fought alongside chemical workers who are currently battling the horrors of asbestos exposure, and it hits close to home. A few of the Michigan chemical plants that potential exposure has been linked to include:
- Monsanto Chemical
- Wyandotte Chemical
- Dow Chemical
- Semet Sovay
Utility Workers Asbestos Exposure
Asbestos exposure is not uncommon in individuals who served or continue to serve in the utility industry, especially HVAC and power plant workers. Asbestos was frequently utilized in HVAC units and power plants because of its remarkable heat resistance and durability. These qualities are also why it was used in air duct systems, fireplace ducts, caulk, firebrick, compounds, adhesives, plaster, steam pipes, insulation, gaskets, flooring, cement, plumbing, ceiling tiles, and more.
Throughout the 20th century, coal-fired plants, steam plants, hydroelectric plants, and nuclear power plants required generators, turbines, and boilers for their processes. Unfortunately, this machinery often housed asbestos-containing parts and insulations, putting the utility workers at significant risk any time the machinery was in use, being inspected, being repaired, or damaged—which could cause asbestos fibers to become airborne and risk inhalation.
Local utility job sites that may pose a risk of asbestos exposure include:
- Del Ray Powerhouse
- Beacon Street Powerhouse
- Trenton Channel Powerhouse
- Monroe Powerhouse
- St. Clair Powerhouse
- Marysville Powerhouse
- Seven Sisters (Connors Creek)
- River Rouge Powerhouse
- Belle River Powerhouse
- Pennsalt Powerhouse
- Wyandotte North
- Wyandotte South