Over the past century, scientific advancements have revealed the hazards of asbestos exposure. How could we have known that this wildly abundant and, for all appearances, useful mineral would cause hundreds of thousands of deaths? Of course, we couldn’t have, especially since it can take anywhere from 15 to 50 years after initial asbestos exposure for an individual to show signs of asbestos-related illness.
Industrial asbestos exposure was once particularly high, and it continues to present potential risks to this day. Laborers who have worked directly with asbestos or asbestos products are at high risk for asbestos-related medical complications such as asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma, and more.
This article will discuss how asbestos exposure impacts two particular professions: foundry workers and sheet metal workers.
Asbestos was used heavily throughout the 19th century and the majority of the 20th century because it was cheap, easily accessible, and widely available. Health issues caused by asbestos were not yet proven or accepted.
Before we get into the specifics of how asbestos exposure impacts foundry and sheet metal workers, let’s review a quick timeline of how asbestos impacted the United States to better understand why we are still battling the repercussions.
The primary role of a foundry worker is to melt ore to create usable metals for production and sale. These metals include pure elements and their alloys such as iron, steel, copper, bronze, aluminum, brass, and more. The process in which they refine the metals themselves is known as casting, and they use sturdy molds and heavy machinery to accomplish the job.
Foundry workers are exposed to asbestos mainly through the equipment they use to perform their daily tasks. Here are some of the common tools and equipment that may contain asbestos:
Many of these items contain asbestos because of the thermal insulating properties of the mineral. Before the implementation of stricter asbestos laws, asbestos was used as general machinery insulation, hot tops, tank covers, and thermal gloves for industrial needs. These products, due to loopholes in asbestos policy, may very well be in service even still.
When asbestos-containing products wear down or are removed or worked on, they have a high chance of dispersing the hazardous microscopic mineral into the air or onto clothes and hands. This leads to primary and secondary exposure, which puts foundry workers and anyone they contact directly at risk.
Sheet metal workers use metals in various ways to install, assemble, or repair systems and machinery. Their work requires manipulating metal with heat such as welding and soldering or physically through shearing, punching, and pressing. Their expertise is vital to installing and maintaining HVAC systems, plumbing systems, roofing, gutters, and more. It also requires extensive vocational training to perform safely and expertly.
Many of the structures and machinery that sheet metal workers are required to perform work upon or with contain asbestos to this day. Examples of these include:
Sheet metal workers often come into contact with asbestos-contaminated materials during various jobs. These include renovations of older buildings, working on plumbing and HVAC units, or working on naval vessels. Since the banning of widespread asbestos usage is relatively recent, we are still seeing sheet metal workers heavily affected by industrial exposure to this day.
If you or a family member has been exposed to asbestos due to an industrial profession, seeking medical and legal counsel immediately is advised. To talk with an expert regarding asbestos claims and how we can help, sign up for a free consultation with our team at Serling & Abramson, P.C. today.