There has been a long history of industrial and power plant workers in Illinois being exposed to asbestos, a known human carcinogen. Thousands of workers have reported cases of mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other asbestos-related diseases as a result.
Despite occupational health and safety rules, modern-day workers are still exposed to this deadly mineral. And because the effects of asbestos exposure are not typically recognized until 10-50 years later, many men and women who have worked in industrial facilities and power plants decades ago are just now discovering that their health is compromised.
Asbestos Exposure in Industrial Facilities
Industrial workers are categorized as workers within large factories, plants, or facilities that use raw materials to produce usable products. In the past and present, they've been known to work in areas lined with asbestos or with products that contain asbestos. This is due to the fact that asbestos has a desirable resistance to fire, heat, electricity, and chemical reactions that can be needed within these types of scenarios or environments. Fires, in particular, are very possible and do happen occasionally in industrial facilities.
Many industrial facilities, particularly ones built before the 1970s, were built with asbestos materials to protect workers, reduce heat loss, and prevent fires. It wasn't until the 1970s that the dangers of asbestos became known, as the companies that sold it kept that fact secret so that they could continue to sell them. Asbestos could be found in flooring, insulation, cement, ceiling tiles, pipe wrappings, adhesives, and in so many more products that were used within industrial facilities.
Additionally, some of these industrial facilities actually manufactured products that contained asbestos. So, you can imagine the sheer amount of asbestos exposure there was for these workers in particular, with asbestos throughout the building, covering machinery they worked with, and with asbestos being in the products they were working to produce. Today, employers are required by law to follow certain safety protocols to keep their workers safe (or at least safer) from asbestos, but workers decades ago didn't have those protections. Now, they are paying for it.
Industrial Workers and Asbestos-Related Illnesses
Research has shown that industrial workers in certain industries or roles have a greater risk for developing certain illnesses. One study revealed a connection between people working with industrial insulation or who were working as machine operators with an increased risk of developing mesothelioma. In another study of more than 7,000 industrial workers, over 650 of them died of peritoneal cancer (a rare type of mesothelioma that attacks the lining of the abdominal cavity).
Yet another study showed that machinery erectors and millwrights had an increased risk of abnormalities of the pleura (tissue in the chest cavity), thickening of the pleura, and symptoms of interstitial lung disease (a large group of disorders that cause progressive scarring of lung tissue).
Asbestos Exposure in Power Plants
There are hundreds of power plants in America, and because power plants generate large amounts of heat and require fireproofing, asbestos was the product of choice to do the job for decades. Every part of power plant operations established between the 1930s and the 1980s had asbestos.
Power plants employ thousands of workers across Illinois, including engineers, scientists, pipefitters, electricians, and maintenance workers. Those workers currently making repairs on existing equipment are currently at the greatest risk of asbestos exposure on the job. However, anyone who worked within a power plant between the 1930s and 1980s is at risk of developing an asbestos-related illness. Everyone who worked at a power plant between those years is guaranteed to at least have secondhand exposure.
Before the risks of asbestos were well known, power plants relied on asbestos products to protect pipes, boilers, and other equipment for insulation. And in an effort to decrease fire hazards, they also built their power plants with wall panels, gaskets, cement, fire bricks, tape, and adhesives that all contained asbestos. To protect workers from burns and other fire-related injuries, they also provided asbestos-lined gloves and fire blankets as protective equipment.
Common asbestos products or components used in power plants included:
- Filler in cement powder
- Coatings for electrical wires and cables
- Firebricks and sponge blocks
- Fireproofing and insulation
- Sealants and gaskets for pipe joints
- Paints, adhesives, and glues
While most asbestos has been removed from power plants or has been contained, workers are not completely safe from the risk of asbestos exposure—like the repair workers we mentioned earlier. These workers are at risk because they have the potential to disturb asbestos while making repairs. This allows the tiny asbestos fibers to enter the air, be inhaled by those in the vicinity, and then lodge themselves in human lungs, potentially causing asbestos-related diseases.
Lawsuits for Asbestos Exposure in Industrial and Power Plants
When a worker becomes sick with an asbestos-related disease years after working in an industrial or power plant, they can safely assume causation. Getting a diagnosis from a doctor is paramount if you decide to file a lawsuit for negligence against the companies that exposed you to asbestos. These can include cases of asbestos-related diseases that came to light decades later, or cases that are relatively new.
If a worker was not warned of the risks or given the necessary training and safety equipment, they are at risk of developing asbestos-related diseases and may have a case that can provide them with compensation to cover their medical bills and more.
If you have an asbestos-related disease and were not properly warned of the dangers of asbestos during your time as an industrial or power plant worker, submit your free case evaluation to see if you have a case that can be brought forward. We have 24 exceptional attorneys, all with years of successful litigation experience, who are ready to walk with you every step of the way.