A hot top is located on the top of a steel mold or ingot, and it traps impurities that rise out of steel as it cools and takes shape in the mold. During the steel making process, when molten steel has been sufficiently heated, it is poured into an ingot mold. While the steel cools, any impurities it traps will rise to the top of the mold. A cast iron device called a hot top is used to collect these impurities. In order to protect the hot top from damage, the inside of the hot top is lined with refractory materials. Prior to the late 1970s, asbestos was used as an ideal refractory material because of its low cost and ability to withstand high temperatures. At Bethlehem Steel, hot tops were lined with either brick and asbestos-containing mortar or asbestos insulating boards. Exposure to asbestos can cause mesothelioma, lung cancer and other asbestos-related diseases.
In order to make mortar for use in hot tops, a dry mix was poured into a tub and mixed with water. The action of pouring and stirring dry asbestos mortar until it became moist, released asbestos fibers into the air. Laborers who mixed mortar and individuals who worked in the same vicinity could have been exposed to asbestos dust and fibers.
Asbestos insulating boards eventually replaced brick and mortar refractory materials. These boards were primarily manufactured by Ferro Engineering and Foseco Inc. The number of boards placed inside the hot top depended on the size of the steel mold. Handling asbestos insulating boards emitted asbestos fibers into the air, which the workers inhaled. After each use, the insulating boards in the hot tops turned to ash and needed to be replaced. The ash was blown out of the hot top with an air hose, which created a cloud of asbestos-containing dust that workers inhaled.
The attorneys at Lipsitz & Ponterio, LLC have gathered a vast amount of information concerning the type and variety of asbestos-containing refractory materials used at Bethlehem Steel in Lackawanna, New York. 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 at Bethlehem Steel, and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer, we urge you to contact us regarding your legal rights.