If you worked in a chemical plant before 1980, you have most likely been exposed to unsafe amounts of asbestos. Working in a chemical plant back then meant you were surrounded by asbestos on a daily basis. It is because of this that the ranks of former chemical plant workers are filled with people who now suffer from asbestos diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.
Asbestos Use in Chemical Plants
Asbestos could be found all throughout chemical plants built before the U.S. government issued warnings about the hazardous material in the late 1970’s. Although it is primarily known for its ability to withstand heat and fire, asbestos is also resistant to reactive chemicals. For this reason it was commonly used in laboratories. Some of the laboratory equipment that contained asbestos included:
- Bench and counter tops
- Coating materials
- Protective clothing.
Of course, asbestos was used in abundance outside the laboratory as well. It was used as insulation for equipment like:
- Heat exchangers
Chemical Plant Workers are at Risk?
Chemical plant workers who were the most likely to be exposed to airborne asbestos were those who maintained and repaired asbestos insulated equipment. These repairs required the maintenance workers to cut through thick layers of asbestos insulation. Doing so would produce harmful asbestos dust that was inhaled by anyone nearby.
For asbestos to be considered harmful, it must be inhaled. When asbestos containing material, such as the insulation found at a chemical plant, is cut, torn, or worn down, microscopic asbestos fibers are released into the air. Any person in the vicinity of these airborne asbestos fibers will inhale them, and over time may develop an asbestos related disease.
At Risk of Asbestos Exposure
One didn’t necessarily have to be a maintenance man to be exposed to asbestos. Anyone who spent time near plant equipment that had to be repaired or any other damaged, worn down asbestos containing material could have been exposed to unsafe levels of asbestos.
In addition to the maintenance workers, other chemical plant job titles that have been associated with asbestos exposure include:
- Chemical engineer
- Process engineer
- Custodial technician
- Maintenance technician
- Electrical engineer
Asbestos in Chemical Plants Today
Although U.S. law states that asbestos is no longer allowed for “new uses”, it still is occasionally used for established purposes where no suitable alternative material has been discovered. Most new chemical plants have chosen to use materials that contain no or very little asbestos, but materials containing asbestos may still be found in older plants.
If you or a loved one worked in a chemical plant and suffered asbestos exposure, contact Mesothelioma Centers today.