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Asbestos Occupation Spotlight: Steelworkers

Here at Simmons Hanly Conroy, we have helped over 1,000 steelworkers file mesothelioma lawsuits who were exposed to asbestos while working in steel mills around the country.

Even without the dangers of asbestos exposure, working in a steel mill is fraught with dangers between the molten hot steel and intense heat from various equipment like coke ovens and hot tops. Sadly, one of the ways many steelworkers were exposed to asbestos was through the very clothes that were supposed to protect them from the heat.

Steelworkers wore special heat-resistant clothing. That protective gear was often made from asbestos cloth because of asbestos’s natural heat shielding abilities.

Steelworkers could have also been exposed to asbestos in other ways, through the stoves and furnaces used to heat the metal, boiler equipment, and other building materials used to construct the mills.


Steel manufacture, Allegheny-Ludlum. Ladling it out!  These workers are casting ingots from the ladle into which a thirty-five ton electric furnace has just poured its molten steel. The "hot tops" allow for shrinkage of the steel in the ingot bodies. Image Source

“Steel manufacture, Allegheny-Ludlum. Ladling it out! These workers are casting ingots from the ladle into which a thirty-five ton electric furnace has just poured its molten steel. The ‘hot tops’ allow for shrinkage of the steel in the ingot bodies.” Image Source


















Some of the asbestos products used in steel mills include:

  • Boilers
  • Turbines
  • Hot Tops
  • Brakes
  • Gloves and other Clothing
  • Refractories
  • Pipe Covering
  • Gaskets
  • Packing
  • Mud
  • Coke Ovens
  • Masks
  • Pumps
  • Asbestos Cement Board
  • Asbestos Cement Pipe

The asbestos companies who made their asbestos-containing products were often aware of the dangers, but failed to warn their employees working in the steel mills and their families of the dangers of exposure the deadly toxin. As a result, decades later, steelworkers are now being diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma.

Read more about the occupations that pose the biggest risks for asbestos exposure in the workplace. 

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Tips for Protecting Your Family from Take Home Asbestos Exposure

Some people may not realize that you don’t have to work in an occupation with asbestos products to be exposed to it. You could be at risk for “take home” asbestos exposure. This is when asbestos dust gets on a worker’s clothes and/or skin. [Click to Tweet] When they leave to go home, so does the dust, which exposes their spouses, children and other immediate family members. In some cases, children have developed mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases later on in life because they hugged their parents.

Learn about mesothelioma.

Learn about mesothelioma.

Several of our clients were exposed to asbestos because they shook the dust off their husband’s work clothes before putting them in the washing machine, or hugged their dad when he came home from work.

There are steps you can take to protect yourself and your family from take home exposure, especially if you are the one working in an occupation that may come into contact with asbestos (construction, machining, firefighting, automotive services, etc.) Below are tips for reducing asbestos contamination at home from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  1. Use proper safety precautions to reduce exposure. Always wear protective gear and do not bring the protective gear home with you.
  2. If you think you might have been exposed, change your clothes before leaving work, and always leave your soiled clothes at work.
  3. Keep your everyday, non-work clothes away from your work clothes.
  4. If you can, shower before leaving work to wash any contamination from your skin.
  5. Do not take tools, scraps, materials, packaging or other items home with you if they have been near asbestos.
  6. Wash your work clothes separate from your everyday clothes. Never mix the two.
  7. Don’t let your family members visit you at work if there may be asbestos.

Preventing take home asbestos exposure is always best. Decontamination may not always be effective, and any amount of asbestos exposure can be dangerous. [Click to Tweet] Additionally, decontamination can disturb the asbestos fibers, disperse them into the air and be inhaled, where they can become lodged in the lungs and cause mesothelioma.

Follow the tips above the prevent take home asbestos exposure in your home. To learn more about mesothelioma and asbestos exposure, click here.

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Asbestos-containing Crayons, Crime Scene Kits Pose Threat to Children’s Health

Earlier this week an environmental nonprofit group, the Environmental Working Group Action Fund, released a study which revealed the presence of asbestos in crayons and crime scene kits commonly used by children. Four of 28 boxes of crayons and two of 21 crime scene fingerprint kits tested positive for asbestos. All of the tainted products could be purchased in retail stores, as well as online.  The six products that contained asbestos were:

  • Amscan Crayons
  • Disney Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Crayons
  • Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Crayons
  • Saban Power Rangers Super Megaforce Crayons
  • EduScience Deluxe Forensics Kit (black fingerprint powder)
  • Inside Intelligence Secret Spy Kit (white fingerprint powder)

Exposure to asbestos is the leading cause of mesothelioma, a fatal cancer than affects over 3,000 Americans each year. According to an analysis by the U.K. Committee on Carcinogenicity, children who come into contact with asbestos are 3.5 times more likely to develop mesothelioma than young adults who are exposed, due to the long lag time between exposure and disease development.

The World Health Organization (WHO) agrees that children’s longer life expectancies increase their chances of manifesting latent diseases, as they generally live longer with toxic damage. WHO also notes that children are more susceptible to harm from pollutants because of their immature and developing organs and systems, which create “critical windows of vulnerability,” to damage from toxic exposures that adults simply do not have.

Despite the thousands of lives lost to cancer as a result of asbestos exposure, the United States still has not completely banned the use of asbestos. If the U.S. took a stronger position against this deadly toxin, maybe other countries would stop trying to sell us contaminated products.

Manufactured in China and imported to the United States, the contaminated crayons and crime scene fingerprint kits are a perfect example of the lack of oversight when it comes to the production and import of consumer products.

And this isn’t the first time it’s happened.

Traces of asbestos were found in popular crayon brands in 2000. Although the Consumer Product Safety Commission concluded that the risk that children would inhale or ingest asbestos fibers from those crayons was extremely low, the manufacturers agreed to change their products’ formulae to omit talc, the mineral that they had used as a binding agent, which is mined from ore that is sometimes contaminated with tremolite asbestos.

And in 2007, asbestos was discovered in the powder of toy crime scene investigation kits. The powder in these kits also contained talc.

While the use of asbestos in American brands has decreased, especially in children’s products, there is no ban or regulation in place that requires consumer products, like children’s toys, to be free of asbestos. This is an alarming fact due to the way children naturally interact with some of the products tested—for example, the powder in the crime scene fingerprint kits could easily be inhaled.

Findings such as those discovered in the EWP Action Fund’s study underscore the importance of banning the use of asbestos in products. We have a duty to protect our children, who rely on us to advocate for them and keep them out of harm’s way.

Whether on a manufacturing or governmental level, changes need to be made to keep the safety of our children intact. You can help make sure that children are not subjected to the dangers of asbestos by signing the EWG Action Fund’s petition to stop sales of contaminated products.

Together, we can keep our children safe.

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Asbestos Exposure and the Body: What Happens

We know that when asbestos fibers are released into the air and are inhaled, they can lead to serious diseases like mesothelioma and asbestosis. But what happens in between that inhalation and the diagnosis of a disease? How do those fibers cause mesothelioma?


Learn more about asbestos.

When a person inhales asbestos fibers, they are deposited in the upper and lower respiratory tracts, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [Click to Tweet] Because the fibers are so durable, they can hold up for long periods of time in lung tissue and other parts of the body.

Ironically, inhaling larger asbestos particles imposes less of a risk of depositing in the lungs. This is because larger particles often settle on the nasal mucosa or the oropharynx, where they are then sneezed out or swallowed, and therefore never touch the lungs. Smaller particles, however, are often deposited on the surface of the larger airways or even further down in the lung.

The CDC states that the size of asbestos fibers determines “how far into the lungs it is likely to be deposited and how quickly it is cleared.” [Click to Tweet] Even though larger fibers are more likely to be cleared, it’s important to note that all levels of asbestos exposure are dangerous, regardless of the size of the fibers.

Once inside the lungs, while the body tries to get rid of the foreign substance, it’s not always successful. Asbestos fibers can easily make their way to the lungs and remain there for years. [Click to Tweet] Sometimes fibers can migrate towards the pleural and peritoneal cavities, where they can become lodged. This can lead to pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma.

The half-lives of asbestos fibers can vary, but some are retained in the lungs for decades. Asbestos in the lungs can lead to inflammation as well as cell and tissue damage, which can lead to non-malignant and malignant diseases like mesothelioma. This correlates with the latency period of mesothelioma, as some people are exposed to asbestos 20, 30 or even 40 years before they are diagnosed with the disease.

There is no safe level of asbestos exposure. [Click to Tweet] Protect yourself and your family. Learn more about asbestos exposure and mesothelioma today.

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New Estimate Shows Asbestos Kills More Americans Than Previous Estimates Showed

We know that mesothelioma is diagnosed in 3,000 Americans every year. We also know that there are many other diseases caused by asbestos – including asbestosis, lung cancer and others. In the past, the EWG Action Fund estimated that about 10,000 Americans died from asbestos exposure every year. A new analysis, however, found that the actual number is up to 15,000 Americans per year.

asbestosexposureAnother important takeaway from the analysis was that even after 50 years of known medical research linking asbestos to toxic diseases, the American government still can’t completely predict the number of people who die from exposure.

The analysis was taken by EWG Action Fund’s researchers who analyzed Centers for Disease Control death records between the years 1999 to 2013. The researchers identified all deaths that were attributed solely or in part to mesothelioma or asbestosis – two diseases caused by asbestos exposure. The researchers also estimated how many Americans die from asbestos-triggered lung cancer using a special formula developed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Final results showed that asbestos exposure was responsible for the deaths of 12,000 to 15,000 Americans every year for a fourteen-year period. That’s anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 more deaths than previous estimates.

“Clearly, asbestos kills more Americans each year than we thought,” said Sonya Lunder, a senior research analyst with EWG and EWG Action Fund, on the EWG Action Fund website. “The fact that it is still legal and used in the United States is an outrage.”

Even though asbestos use is banned in 55 countries, it is not banned in the U.S. About 125 million people worldwide are exposed to asbestos in the workplace. Certain occupations are at higher risk for exposure, especially firefighters, construction workers, auto mechanics and teachers. This is because asbestos was often used in products and materials they come in contact with, including insulation, ceiling tiles, floor tiles, decorative paints, brake pads and more. There is no safe level of asbestos exposure.

What can be done to lower the number of Americans who die from asbestos exposure every year? Some would argue the best option is to fully ban the toxic mineral.

“The only way to see the numbers of asbestos-related fatalities significantly decline among Americans is for our elected leaders to adopt an outright ban on the deadly substance,” said Lunder.

Learn more about mesothelioma and asbestos exposure, or contact us if you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure.

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