Those who spent their career in the steel industry are at high risk of developing asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma. Prior to the late 1970’s and due to its natural resistance to heat, asbestos was used as an ideal insulation and refractory material on a variety of equipment involved in the manufacture of steel. As a result, steel workers, pipefitters, journeymen, electricians, chemical technicians, engineers, boilermakers, equipment mechanics and maintenance men have developed and died of mesothelioma, a cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos.
Typically, asbestos refractory materials could be found in annealing and blast furnaces, open hearth furnaces, heating furnaces, boilers, soaking pits, hot tops and coke ovens. A refractory material is a non-metallic material that is capable of resisting high temperatures and other destructive forces present such as slag, corrosion and abrasion. Asbestos was an ideal component for refractory materials utilized as insulation surrounding high heat surfaces.
Exposure to asbestos was very common among workers who worked with hot tops and steel molds. Hot tops were located on the tops of steel molds, and were used to trap impurities that rose out of the steel. Asbestos-containing insulation boards protected the hot tops from damage by the repeated use of extreme heat. Asbestos-containing insulation boards were installed several times a day because they typically turned to ash after one burn. Workers removed the ash from the hot top with a suction hose and inhaled dust created from cutting and installing new replacement boards. At the end of a shift, the mold men and maintenance crews were responsible for sweeping the area, subsequently releasing dust into the air.
Further asbestos exposure occurred within the hearths that held up to ten or eleven boilers, each reaching ninety feet in height and weighing up to thirty tons. These boilers contained asbestos-containing components, such as insulation, cement and gaskets. Through the maintenance and repair of these boilers, asbestos fibers and dust were released into the air. If any of the boilers were beyond repair, boilermakers tore down the boiler for a complete reconstruction. Breaking down these boilers released massive amounts of asbestos into the air.
Steam lines were also located within the hearths and throughout steel mills. Pipe and steam lines insulated with asbestos-containing pipe covering protected the lines from temperatures ranging as high as 2800 – 3000 degrees Fahrenheit. This insulation generally came pre-formed and needed to be cut down to fit individual pipes. To fill gaps and contend with corners, a cement form of asbestos-containing insulation was used. Cutting pre-formed pipe covering and mixing dry asbestos-containing powder into water created a significant amount of airborne dust that put any worker in the area at risk.
Common defendants in an asbestos related steel worker’s case include:
The attorneys at Lipsitz & Ponterio, LLC have gathered a vast amount of information regarding the type and variety of asbestos to which our clients were exposed. Our clients understand the importance of securing legal representation as soon as possible after a diagnosis of mesothelioma or lung cancer. If you or a loved one were once employed in the steel industry and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, we urge you to contact us regarding your legal rights.