Laborers who spent their career in the steel industry are at high risk of developing asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma and lung cancer. Prior to the late 1970s and due to its natural resistance to heat, asbestos was used as an 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 were 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.

Refractory materials were frequently replaced as extreme high heat temperatures caused repeated damage. During the application of the asbestos refractory and insulation products, clouds of dust, visible to the naked eye were created. The airborne dust created by the application of these asbestos products traveled long distances. Not only those who applied these products are at risk for developing an asbestos-related disease, but those who also worked in the vicinity of these units are also at risk.

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.

Additional asbestos exposure occurred in 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. During 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. Demolishing these boilers released massive amounts of asbestos dust 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.