Foundries Unveiled: Metal Production Amid Asbestos Hazards

Foundry workers play a crucial role in the production of various metals through the process of casting, utilizing robust molds and heavy machinery. 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. However, the nature of their work exposes foundry workers to potential health hazards, particularly asbestos exposure.

Common foundry jobs include:

  • Sheet working
  • Welding
  • Metal crafting
  • Smelting
  • Smithing

Asbestos exposure in foundries primarily occurs through the use of equipment integral to their daily tasks. Some of the common tools and machinery foundry workers use that contain asbestos include but are not limited to:

  • Boilers
  • Furnaces
  • Tanks
  • Pumps
  • Valves
  • Ovens
  • Personal protection equipment (PPE) such as aprons and gloves

Many items in foundries contained asbestos due to 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. Primary exposure occurs when workers directly handle or work with asbestos-containing materials, while secondary exposure happens when asbestos fibers are carried home on clothes, potentially affecting family members and others in the household.

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