1881 saw the beginning of Sloss Industries in Birmingham, Alabama. The company, which was founded by Colonel James Withers Sloss, was originally known as Sloss Furnace. It quickly became a leader and an innovator in the production of iron, and Sloss Industries began to grow.
By 1887 Sloss Furnace became known as Sloss Iron and Steel Company. From there the company purchased and merged with several others to become a dominant force in the iron and steel industries. Over the years Sloss has met with great success, but the corporation has also faced very serious problems. One of the biggest came from a naturally occurring mineral known as asbestos.
Around the time of the Industrial Revolution, asbestos became one of the most commonly used resources in the United States. The mineral was abundant, inexpensive to mine and the perfect ingredient for hundreds of different products. Among the first and most common uses was as a base for insulation, because the mineral is resistant to heat and fire. Insulating materials were put in place to keep hot running equipment, like the machines found in any steel mill, operating properly. Employees of Sloss Industries spent much of their time working around these items, and sometimes even wore fire resistant clothing that was made out of asbestos.They had no idea that their lives were being placed in danger as a result, because they were unaware that asbestos is poisonous.
Most Americans were not informed of the dangers of asbestos until the 1970's, and by then millions of people had been exposed to the hazardous substance. People who worked around goods that contained the mineral would regularly breathe microscopic bits of it in while on the job. This was very dangerous and potentially deadly because when asbestos is taken internally it can damage the respiratory system and make normal breathing difficult and painful, lead to disorders such as asbestosis and even slowly promote lung cancer. Sloss Industry employees began to develop illnesses such as asbestos cancer, also called mesothelioma, a condition which is difficult to treat and incurable.
If you or someone you know worked at this Birmingham based facility, you may be at risk for developing an asbestos related illness. It can take more than 2 decades for symptoms of these illnesses to become noticeable, so if you spent time at Sloss Industries or any other work site where asbestos was in use, notify your doctor about it right away.