Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is the home of a steel manufacturing company called J&L Specialty Steel. The facility is one branch of the Jones & Laughlin Steel Company, which was founded in 1853.
While the employees at this steel mill were on duty, they labored around various products that were made out of asbestos. This mineral is strong, durable and even resistant to fire, which made it ideal as a major ingredient in industrial based goods like insulation and protective clothing. Asbestos is also plentiful, easy to find and inexpensive to mine, which caused it to become one of the most commonly used natural resources in the United States. Manufacturers included it in everything from firebricks to yarn for decades.
All of the people who did spend their days in close proximity to goods that contained asbestos had their very lives put at risk. The mineral has many beneficial qualities, but it is a poisonous material. Microscopic bits of asbestos dust can easily get into the air when items containing the mineral are in use, and anyone who is close by can breathe that dust in. Once that happens, the toxic substance will cling to the respiratory system and slowly become a very damaging force. It can destroy healthy tissue and cause the development of chronic breathing disorders and cancerous diseases. Asbestosis and mesothelioma are two illnesses that are commonly associated with exposure to asbestos. Both are incurable, and often deadly.
When mills like J&L Specialty Steel first went into operation, most people were not aware of the dangers asbestos holds. It took nearly a century before the facts about asbestos being toxic became common knowledge in America. Today the use of this hazardous mineral is strictly regulated by government agencies like OSHA and the EPA, but anyone who worked at sites like this Pittsburgh based facility while contaminated products were in use may still be at risk for mesothelioma cancer. If you or anyone you know could have asbestos cancer, notify your healthcare provider about it as soon as possible.