Bethlehem Steel was founded in 1857 within the state of Pennsylvania. The company had such success as a builder of large ships and manufacturer of other steel based products that they were at one time the second largest steel producer in the country.
For nearly a century, hundreds of different products that were made in the United States contained a mineral called asbestos. It was found in large deposits and soon became one of the most commonly used natural resources in the country. Asbestos is a strong, durable material that can hold together under immense levels of heat and even stop the spread of a small fire. In addition, the mineral is inexpensive to mine and it can be molded into most any shape. These qualities caused manufacturing companies to put the material into production long before it had been thoroughly tested. Had the manufacturers waited or performed a more comprehensive examination of the mineral, they may have realized that asbestos is poisonous before using it in everything from insulation to clothing.
Industrial work sites such as steel mills contained a variety of products that were made out of asbestos. Insulation, in particular, was typically made with large amounts of the mineral. Although the asbestos made the insulating items stronger and more durable, while they were being used inside large machines small amounts of debris would break loose from the insulation and release microscopic fibers into the air. These fibers are easily inhaled by anyone who gets close to them, and once they have been taken internally they cling to the lining of the respiratory system. There is no way to remove these fibers, and once they are in place they will release toxins into the victim's body. Over time the toxins can do a great deal of damage and lead to respiratory disorders that make normal breathing painful and difficult. They often also produce asbestos cancer and other potentially deadly diseases.
Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that is closely associated to asbestos exposure. Many people who worked at Bethlehem Steel developed this disease after being exposed to the contaminated goods that were found at their work site. Since there is no cure and it is difficult to treat, mesothelioma cancer has claimed the lives of thousands of people in America. It is still a common issue today - people who worked at this Bethlehem, Pennsylvania based facility or other locations like it may be currently suffering from illnesses that they developed after working around products that contained asbestos.