Gadsden, Alabama is the home of a steel mill owned by Gulf States Steel, Inc. Gulf States purchased the mill in 1986, but the plant itself had been in operation since 1902.
When the Gadsden facility first opened, the owners purchased a variety of insulation and other products that were made out of asbestos. The mineral was strongly valued for it's heat resistant and fire retardant properties, which made it ideal for industrial settings like a steel mill. These work sites utilized large equipment that ran at high temperatures and needed large amounts of insulation to regulate the heat and keep them operating properly. At the time, people were not aware of the danger that asbestos presented to anyone who is in its vicinity.
Asbestos is a toxic mineral that is made up of tiny fibers which cling together tightly. Despite their strength, these fibers often break apart and become airborne where they can easily be inhaled by people without them even realizing it. When the bits of asbestos are inhaled, they lodge in the respiratory system and turn into a source of massive damage. People who are exposed to asbestos tend to develop serious breathing disorders and various types of lung cancer. One of the more well known types of cancer that is commonly associated with asbestos exposure is mesothelioma, which is an aggressive and incurable malignancy.
By 1999, Gulf States Steel was experiencing serious financial problems, and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company was unable to make this work, and eventually declared Chapter 7, which required a total liquidation of their assets. Following this process the mill was investigated by officials from the Environmental Protection Agencty, and found to be a serious health hazard. Inspectors discovered hazardous waste materials, unsafe work conditions, and asbestos laden goods on the premises.
Any of the people who were employed at this work site in Alabama may have been exposed to asbestos, and are therefore likely to develop serious illnesses. It can take decades for the signs of the diseases asbestos causes to develop, so anyone who worked at this mill is urged to notify their doctor and set up an appointment immediately.