We have compiled a list of the major aluminum plants across the country where our clients have had the potential to be exposed to asbestos. Individuals who worked at these plants may have unknowingly been exposed to asbestos and may be at risk for developing asbestos diseases such as malignant mesothelioma and asbestos cancer. From the early to mid 1900’s, many aluminum plants employed large numbers of workers. Please click on the links below to learn more about the history of each aluminum plant and the potential dangers that workers faced at these plants. If you or someone you know worked at one of these aluminum plants and has mesothelioma, please contact us to learn more about your legal rights.
- Anaconda Copper Mining Company
- Magma Copper Company
- Alcan Aluminum Plant
- Anaconda Aluminum Company
- Anaconda Copper Mining Company
- Phelps Dodge Copper Plant
- Cascade Steel Rolling Mills
- Kennecott Copper Corp
- Alcoa Aluminum-Vancouver
- Alcoa Aluminum-Wenatchee
- Columbia Aluminum
- Harvey Aluminum
- INTALCO Aluminum-Cherry Point
- Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical
- Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp
- Martin-Marietta Corporation
- Reynolds Aluminum
Asbestos in Aluminum Plants
For almost all of the 1900s, when extreme heat or flame was a risk, various forms of asbestos were selected as insulation. Aluminum smelters as a result, were usually made with materials containing asbestos. A lesser-known property of asbestos is that it resists conducting electrical current. Because of the high electrical needs when fabricating aluminum, asbestos, therefore, appeared not only in plant structures, but also in motors, power turbines and heavy machinery in the plant. Also, asbestos' ability to withstand acids meant it was useful in safety clothes, coating materials and bench tops. And although the asbestos worked well in safeguarding against fire damage and in protecting people and equipment from extreme heat, it also exposed people who used it or worked around it to significant health risks.
Much of this asbestos was the form called chrysotile. For a number of years, chrysotile was touted by corporate interests as the "good asbestos" and "environmentally friendly", in spite of mounting proof to the contrary. Although it was outlawed for construction purposes in the 1970s, chrysotile, which was often mixed with brown or blue asbestos and formed into asbestos-containing transite, appeared for many years in aluminum plants across the country.
Like cement, asbestos transite could be sprayed onto pipes and ductwork, molded into working surfaces and laminated. As long as asbestos transite remained solid, this form of asbestos posed little hazard. With age, however, this transite becomes prone to crumbling, enabling microscopic particles to float into the air. Asbestos when it is in this condition is called friable, which translates to easy to pulverize.
Why Friable Asbestos Is a Problem
When friable, asbestos particles are readily dispersed into the environment. Breathing asbestos particles can cause diseases such as cancer or asbestosis. Another rare, but often lethal, disease linked to asbestos is mesothelioma. The pleural variety of mesothelioma cancer, which attacks the lining between the lungs and the pleural cavity, is the most prevalent. If those particles of asbestos in the air land on food or in beverages and are subsequently ingested, pericardial or peritoneal mesothelioma can result, although they are less common than pleural mesothelioma.
Increased pressure from medical scientists and the press led to laws regulating how to use asbestos. However, when smelters like the Kaiser Aluminum plant in Spokane were first operating, asbestos was much more common. Any asbestos that remains from then can yet pose a health hazard if safety procedures are not followed during remodeling projects.
The Hidden Hazard of Asbestos
Asbestos cancer, in contrast to many work-related injuries, which are readily observed and known about soon after the incident, can take ten, twenty, or even thirty years to appear. It can also be hard to identify asbestos-related diseases because the symptoms resemble the symptoms of other, less serious conditions. It is vital, therefore, that workers that were employed by or spent much time in Aluminum plants inform their health care professionals about the possibility of asbestos exposure. New ways to combat mesothelioma cancer are being developed, and early detection provides patients and their doctors the highest chance of beating the once always-fatal disease.