The Keystone Steel & Wire Company started off very small in 1889. It was established in Dillon, Illinois and housed within a small shed. Workers operated machinery invented by a man named by Peter Sommer that created steel wire fences, which would soon be in high demand by farmers all across the United States.
Keystone's tremendous success, especially after the company started painting the top of the wire fences red, allowed them to expand and open up other facilities within Illinois. Their facility in Bartonville is recognized as one of the largest in the world, and at any given time they have more than 1,000 active employees at that site alone. Over the company's long history, many thousands of people have been employed in their mills, and unfortunately many of them spent much of their time laboring in close proximity to a toxic substance: asbestos.
Much of the equipment that was used to create steel wire fences operated under extreme temperatures, and needed to be regulated by heavy duty insulation. For many years, the insulating products that accomplished this goal were made out of the naturally occurring mineral known as asbestos. It did the job well - the mineral is strong, durable and a natural fire retardant, but when this machinery was operating, microscopic asbestos particles would be released into the air where the workers could breathe them in without even realizing it. Aside from the insulation, asbestos was also used in other goods such as protective clothing and bricks that lined the inside of boilers.
When people breathe in asbestos particles, they often suffer many detrimental consequences. The toxins from the mineral are allowed to enter the body and damage the respiratory system, making it difficult and painful to breathe. Once the particles are taken internally, they remain there permanently and can cause massive amounts of damage over a period of many years. People who ingest the poisonous material often develop different forms of cancer, including the well known mesothelioma. The mesothelioma survival rate is known to be grim, yet early diagnosis and treatments such as mesothelioma radiation may help improve the prognosis for this disease.
During the 1970's, people began to be made aware about the dangers of asbestos. Use of the mineral became regulated by government agencies like the EPA and OSHA. It was removed by certified professionals from work sites, schools, churches and homes all across America. The hazardous materials that were in place at Keystone Steel & Wire had to be removed to make the location safe for workers. Today the company remains a fixture of Illinois and has become a much safer work environment.