Asbestos Exposure at Steel Mills
Asbestos was used heavily throughout steel mills from the 1940s to the late 1970s. Steel mills used equipment that faced high-heat, and asbestos offered heat resistance and fire protection. This was also the case for asbestos-containing protective clothing and construction products used throughout the mill.
Asbestos use in steel mills has exposed tens of thousands of workers throughout the years and continues to pose a risk to anyone that used to work in a steel mill or those who work with outdated equipment and products. Whether wearing or working with asbestos materials, workers could easily inhale the asbestos fibers and are at-risk of developing mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases.
Asbestos Use at Steel Mills
One of the main uses for asbestos at steel mills was through insulation. Asbestos insulation was lightweight, durable and fireproof, used frequently as a construction material. Equipment used throughout steel mills also often relied on asbestos. Steel mill machinery like ovens, blast furnaces, boilers, steam pipes, hot blast stoves, hot tops, rolling mills, tanks, steel molds and welding equipment all used asbestos for durability, heat resistance and fireproofing. The mineral can also be found in various components of the equipment, such as gaskets, brake pads and linings that face frequent upkeep and repairs.
Aside from the equipment used across steel companies, workers also wore clothing that contained asbestos, to use machinery and tools at high temperatures and as fire prevention. Their protective clothing included coats, coveralls, face masks, aprons, gloves, pants and other gear that protected employees from hot steel. All of these asbestos products could be dangerous after heavy use, wear and tear, damage or misuse that disturbed the asbestos fibers.
Companies that have had proven exposure to asbestos across the United States include:
- Birmingham Steel Corporation
- Ensley Steel Works
- Gulf States Steel Company
- LTV Steel
- Sloss Industries
- Sloss Sheffield Steel and Iron Sloss Mines
- U.S. Steel Mill
- Bohler Steel
- Clingan Steel, Inc.
- Granite City Steel Company
- Keystone Steel & Wire
- Northwestern Steel & Wire
- Tri Star Metals
- Ispat International
- Bayou Steel Corporation
- Titan Steel Corporation
- National Steel
- Plymouth Steel
- Rouge Industries, Inc.
- Carley Foundry, Inc.
- Dotson Company, Inc.
- Crucible Steel Company of America
- Rome Strip Steel
- J&H Power Group, Inc.
- LTV Steel
- Marion Steel Company
- McDonald Steel
- Sheffield Steel Corporation
- Oregon Steel Mills, Inc.
- AK Steel
- Allegheny Ludlum Steel Corporation
- ARMCO. Inc.
- Bethlehem Steel Company
- J&L Specialty Steel
- USX Corporation
- Commercial Metals
- Quality Tubing Inc.
- Steel Resource
- TXI Chaparral
- Weirton National Steel
- Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corporation
Individuals that have worked at these companies have come forward with cases of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.
Steel Mill Workers and Mesothelioma Risk
Within the steel industry, there are several trades involved during the process of manufacturing steel. Occupations include casters, millwrights, furnace operators, welders, maintenance workers, formen and other laborers and supervisors involved with steel production. All of these steel workers are at risk of exposure when asbestos fibers are disturbed, becoming airborne and easily inhaled or ingested by anyone working in the building.
When asbestos was at the height of its use in steel mills, the dangers of asbestos weren’t well-known. However, by the end of the 1970s, regulations were being put into place and asbestos use greatly declined, but was still present throughout the mills. Even today, old equipment and buildings may still contain past uses of asbestos.
As a result, anyone who has worked at a steel mill or who continues to work there with old equipment and machinery could be at high-risk of asbestos exposure, which causes many concerns regarding asbestos diseases. When asbestos fibers become inhaled or ingested, they embed into the body’s tissue, causing irritation and leading to serious health problems like malignant mesothelioma cancer, asbestosis or other asbestos-related illnesses. Awareness of potential past exposure is crucial, as symptoms may not emerge for decades, long after exposure occurred.
Author: Tara Strand
Senior Content WriterRead about Tara
Reviewer: Jennifer R. Lucarelli
Lawyer for Mesothelioma Victims and Their FamiliesRead about Jennifer
Barbieri PG, Somigliana A, et al. Pulmonary concentration of asbestos fibers in steel workers with pleural mesothelioma. Italian Journal of Occupational Medicine and Ergonomics. April 2010;32(2):149-153.
Binazzi A, Corfiati M, et al. MESOTHELIOMA INCIDENCE SURVEILLANCE SYSTEM AND ROLE OF ENVIRONMENTAL EXPOSURE TO ASBESTOS IN CONTAMINATED SITES. January 2015.