Although asbestos has largely been phased out of the industry due to its carcinogenic properties, many Ohio workers who had contact with asbestos through the early 1980s are only now being diagnosed with mesothelioma or other cancers related to asbestos exposure. This is due to a long latency period—often upward of 30 years—between when asbestos exposure occurs and when symptoms of cancer become evident.
Between 1999 and 2013, Ohio averaged nearly 10,000 asbestos-related deaths per year, which ranks among the top 10 states for asbestos exposure deaths. This is because for the better part of a century, Ohio was home to numerous professions that relied on asbestos or asbestos-containing products.
In this post, the Cincinnati asbestos exposure attorneys at Young, Reverman & Mazzei discuss occupations with a historically high asbestos exposure risk as well as what to do if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or other asbestos-related illness.
Construction workers are commonly recognized as the group with the greatest risk of occupational asbestos exposure. The construction industry comprised nearly 80 percent of all asbestos used in the country throughout the 20th century, putting millions of workers at risk for mesothelioma and other asbestos-related cancers.
According to the most recent data, approximately 1.3 million construction workers are exposed to asbestos each year in the U.S. This excessive use of asbestos in the construction industry has caused more than 14 percent of all mesothelioma deaths between 1999 and 2012.
There are a wide variety of workers in the construction field who face a heightened risk for asbestos exposure, including:
- Brick, cement and stone masons
- Demolition crew members
- Drywall installers
- Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) workers
Construction workers may have been exposed through direct contact with asbestos (which was often used as an insulator or flame retardant) or through contact with asbestos-containing products (such as pipe insulation or roofing materials) that break apart and create airborne asbestos particles.
Firefighters face a high risk of occupational asbestos exposure through damaged, asbestos-containing materials. This is especially common when battling blazes in older buildings constructed with asbestos-based products.
In the past, even some protective gear worn by firefighters contained asbestos, which was used to protect against heat and as a flame retardant. According to the CDC and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, firefighters are twice as likely to develop mesothelioma as the general population.
Manufacturing and Industrial Workers
For decades, many manufacturers used asbestos as an additive to make products resistant to heat and fire, and to increase durability. However, workers exposed to the byproduct asbestos particulates face an increased risk for mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis and other health problems.
Employees could be exposed to asbestos when performing work duties such as assembling products during the manufacturing process or routine machinery maintenance, or even from materials used in the building of the factories where they worked. Ohio manufacturing plants in which workers were exposed to asbestos include but are not limited to:
- Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel
- Ohio Cast Products
- John Deere Industrial Equipment Co.
- Sherwin-Williams Co.
Mechanics and Aircraft and Vehicle Manufacturers
Prior to the 1980s, asbestos was widely used in the construction and maintenance of aircraft and motor vehicles. Thanks to its heat-resistant and insulative properties, asbestos was a popular additive to numerous components including gaskets, valve rings, electrical insulators, and brake pads.
According to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were more than 60 deaths within the automotive repair and maintenance industry due to asbestos exposure between the years 1999 and 2015. While past exposure to asbestos-containing vehicle parts is a leading cause of mesothelioma, present-day mechanics are still at risk of occupational exposure. Mechanics working on older vehicles or with parts imported from other countries with fewer asbestos restrictions are especially vulnerable.
Asbestos and asbestos-containing products were used by all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces through the 1970s. Prized for its heat-resistance, insulative qualities and low cost, asbestos could be found in everything from barracks buildings to vehicles.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), several million American veterans were exposed to asbestos, and veterans comprise about 30 percent of all mesothelioma diagnoses in the United States. In Ohio, asbestos was prevalent at Dayton’s Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where it could be found in aircraft, motor vehicles and on-site buildings.
Oil Rig and Refinery Workers
Asbestos was widespread on oil rigs and in oil refineries for decades. It was used predominantly in insulation for boilers, heat exchangers, pipes and pumps.
Ohio oil refineries that have been linked to asbestos exposure include those operated by:
- Clark Refining
- Marathon Ohio
Workers at these oil facilities have a uniquely increased risk of pleural mesothelioma compared to other occupations; pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of mesothelioma and develops in the protective tissue that surrounds the lungs. Most oil refinery workers were exposed to asbestos when dealing directly with the equipment that processes the crude oil, while others were exposed through personal protective equipment or by inhaling asbestos fibers that came from gaskets and other damaged equipment.
Power Plant Workers
Until the 1980s, asbestos was pervasive in power plants, where it was employed as an insulator for boilers, piping and electrical lines, and where it could also be found in machinery and components including gaskets, valves, pumps and turbines. Asbestos was also used in some protective gear, including coats and masks.
A number of Ohio power plants owned and operated by Ohio Valley Electric contained asbestos. In recent decades, thousands of former workers who developed mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases have come forward to file claims against their employers for failing to provide safe work environments or warn employees of asbestos exposure risks.
As an affordable flame-retardant and insulator, asbestos was heavily used in shipbuilding and ship maintenance. Asbestos could be found in insulation for boilers, pipes and turbines, and it was a popular additive to cement, plaster and paint used on ships.
In the 19th century, the American Shipbuilding Company was located in Cleveland; it later moved its headquarters to Lorain, where it built two drydocks where asbestos-based products were common. Though the company shut down its Ohio facilities in the 1980s, thousands of employees faced a risk of asbestos exposure, and many eventually developed mesothelioma due to job site exposure.
What to Do if You were Exposed to Asbestos
There are many occupations in addition to the ones mentioned here with an increased risk for asbestos exposure. If you believe you were exposed to asbestos through your job or through second-hand contact with a family member who worked with or around asbestos, it’s advisable to talk with your doctor as soon as possible.
If you or a loved one was diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may be entitled to compensation to help cover medical costs and other damages. The asbestos exposure lawyers at Young, Reverman & Mazzei understand the physical, emotional and financial challenges faced by mesothelioma patients and their families. We’re dedicated to helping asbestos exposure victims and their families recover the compensation they need to cope with the effects of mesothelioma.
Please call us today at 800-721-1678 to schedule your free consultation or contact us online to tell us your story now.
In Ohio, we serve clients from the greater Cincinnati and Dayton areas. We also welcome clients from Dearborn County in Indiana and Campbell County, Boone County and Kenton County in Kentucky. For a complete list of our offices and directions, please visit our Locations page.