Often used to protect factory workers from excessive heat, asbestos has killed more people than all factory accidents combined
February 2, 2010 – Asbestos was used in abundance throughout the 20th century, especially inside factory plants where workers poured molten metal. Ironically though, much of the asbestos-based equipment that was used to protect metallurgists later led to asbestos-related diseases and deaths among the very workers whom the asbestos was originally supposed to protect.
In a Weitz & Luxenberg case last month, our mesothelioma lawyers obtained a high six-figure settlement for a retired factory worker diagnosed with occupational mesothelioma. He described for us the hellish work environment he encountered inside the metallurgy division of a former New York-based electronics factory.
“In 1955, we were working on the fuel elements of the Nautilus submarine, among other projects . . . I remember it took six months to get clearance from the FBI for me to work there,” he said.
Processing metals under blast-furnace temperatures resulted in heavy use of asbestos-insulated equipment. “We worked with uranium, stainless steel and aluminum. And we did such things as heat treating those products inside heat-treating boxes, which I helped to build.”
Testimony on high-risk work environment
Where was the asbestos in the heating box?
The whole box would have asbestos in it.
What form did that asbestos take?
Well, it was in a loose form. I would take it in my hand and stuff it.
Was it a powder?
It was like fiberglass, more or less.
How long would it take you to stuff each box with asbestos?
Half an hour I’d say — 20 minutes.
Did you wear a mask or a respirator?
Do you know who manufactured the heat treating boxes?
We made them. I just helped stuff the asbestos in.
New asbestos regulations
New York City asbestos regulations would never permit such lapses in worker health safety today, but 50 years ago these work conditions were not uncommon.
When asbestos minerals are disturbed, or when asbestos fire-proofed products are well used and show wear, microscopic mineral fibers can separate and float on the air where they are easily inhaled by workers in the vicinity.
Inhalation of asbestos fibers by workers is still the most regular route leading to asbestos exposure and disease.
Weitz & Luxenberg – The workers’ champion
Weitz & Luxenberg has protected asbestos-injured workers for nearly 25 years. In that time the firm has won several billion dollars in verdicts and settlements for clients, often setting records for compensations in national asbestos-injury cases.
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