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Industrial Workers and Asbestos Exposure

Industrial workers have long been at risk of asbestos exposure and the illnesses it causes. Asbestos was once commonly used in a variety of industrial materials. While there are currently regulations restricting its use, asbestos is still used in some materials. Even with occupational health and safety rules, some modern workers may still be exposed. and older workers are now suffering the consequences pf their previous exposure.

Workers can inhale tiny airborne asbestos fibers that cause damage over time, ultimately resulting in terrible conditions like asbestosis, mesothelioma, and lung cancer. Some industrial workers have sued companies over these illnesses and won, getting both justice and compensatory damages.

Industrial Workers

Industrial workers are a broad spectrum of people are employed to produce materials. Mostly working in large factories or plants, these workers use raw materials to refine and produce usable products. Industrial workers may be foremen or supervisors, manual laborers, machinists, welders, millwrights, smelters, metal workers, and mechanics. Frequently, these people work in places that may contain asbestos to protect against the heat of manufacturing and refining materials. However, they may also work directly with materials made with asbestos.

Asbestos in Industrial Settings

For years, asbestos has been used in a variety of building materials and industrial applications. Asbestos is a mineral with unique properties. These properties include durability as well as resistance to heat, fire, electricity, and chemical reactions. In an industrial plant, extreme heat is often involved in the manufacturing process, and fire is a possible danger. Many industrial facilities were built with asbestos materials to reduce heat loss, protect workers, and prevent fires. Factories may also include asbestos insulation, pipe wrappings, cement, flooring, ceiling tiles, adhesives, and more.

In addition, some plants actually manufactured materials that contained asbestos. For example, a plant that manufactured asbestos insulation may have had asbestos in the building, machinery, and materials being used directly by the workers. Older workers are more at risk for developing asbestos-related illnesses. This is because they worked extensively in facilities were asbestos use was not regulated. Today, employers are required by law to follow certain safety protocols to protect workers from asbestos.

How Industrial Workers Are Exposed to Asbestos

Older industrial workers had a higher risk of asbestos exposure than those working in plants today. Prior to 1980, industrial employees did not have the benefit of asbestos regulations or workplace safety rules. Workers that handled asbestos as part of the industrial process had the greatest risk. However, even in facilities that did not work directly with asbestos, workers could be exposed through the machinery and the building. When cutting into insulation or other materials to make repairs, asbestos fibers could contaminate the air.

Workers may also have been exposed by using protective equipment. Workers in industrial settings that used high temperatures, like smelting or refining ore, likely used gloves, aprons, and other protective clothing that contained asbestos. In very hot environments, asbestos used to insulate and protect workers could become damaged, increasing the risk of airborne asbestos. Even modern industrial workers are at risk of asbestos exposure. Most at risk are workers that repair and maintain older equipment and building components. Often, older components still contain asbestos that may be disturbed by repairs.


Research bears that industrial workers are exposed to asbestos and that exposure increases the risk of developing certain illnesses. For example, one study found people working in industrial insulation or working as machine operators were at the greatest risk of developing mesothelioma. In a group of more than 7,000 industrial workers, more than 650 died of peritoneal cancer. Peritoneal cancer is a rare type of mesothelioma that attacks the lining of the abdominal cavity.

Another study investigated machinery erectors and millwrights in the New York area. Nearly half of these 110 workers had abnormalities of the pleura, the tissue in the chest cavity. This tissue develops tumors in the most common form of mesothelioma. Several workers also had thickening of the pleura, and several had symptoms of interstitial lung disease. The findings were consistent with exposure to asbestos. In another study, workers in a plant that manufactured asbestos cement had greater risk of developing mesothelioma than the general population. Most were not diagnosed with this cancer until 40 years after working in the industrial setting.


People who become sick years after working in an industrial setting may be facing asbestos-related health problems. These workers may choose to file a lawsuit if they believe someone was negligent in their illnesses.

In one asbestos-related lawsuit, a welder and mechanic worked with asbestos-containing products for 12 years. He also wore protective gear that contained asbestos, eventually becoming ill as a result. He died before the conclusion of his case although it was decided in the worker’s favor. Lawsuits like these are the right of any industrial worker exposed to asbestos because of products, materials, and equipment. If workers were not warned of the risks or given necessary training and safety gear for protection, they were put at risk of later developing asbestos-related diseases.

If you worked in an industrial plant and are now struggling with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related condition, you have rights. Current industrial workers should know their rights regarding a safe workplace. Adhering to regulations regarding asbestos use and how workers should be protected is the employer’s responsibility. If your employer has let you down, you may be able to make a case to get compensatory damages.

Page Edited by Dave Foster

Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available. Connect with Patient Advocate Dave Foster

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