Resources for Patients and their Families

Weirton Steel

How safe do you feel when you go to work? Every day millions of American report for duty at their jobs all across the country. Many of them work at locations that can be dangerous, but they rely on others and having the right equipment to make sure conditions are as safe as possible. Tragically, for many years some of the items that were intended to help keep people secure were arguably doing more harm than good.

Steel mills and other industrial work sites have a variety of large equipment on the premises, and these machines can get extremely hot. To help keep them cool and running properly, they are lined with a thick coat of insulation. For many years one of the primary ingredients in almost every insulating product was naturally occurring mineral called asbestos. This mineral was ideal as for inclusion in insulation. It is strong, durable, pliable and resistant to excessive temperatures and even fire. Unfortunately, it is also toxic.

Work sites all over the nation had goods on the premises that contained asbestos. Steel mills like Weirton Steel in Weirton, West Virginia featured a variety of these products. The plant was established in 1909 by Ernest T. Weir, who also founded the city of Weirton. Most people did not know about the dangers of asbestos until the late 1970's. By then millions of people had been exposed to the hazardous substance. Whenever they were around items that contained the mineral, people were likely to breathe in tiny asbestos fibers that broke free and got into the air. These fibers would enter through the nasal passages and secure themselves to the lining of the respiratory system. Once there, they could do a tremendous amount of damage to the person who had inhaled the toxic mineral. Victims were often subjected to chronic breathing disorders and even asbestos cancer. Many were afflicted with asbestosis, mesothelioma and other life threatening conditions.

Asbestos is still used today, but its use is strictly regulated by government agencies. People who formerly worked at job sites like Weirton Steel when contaminated products were common could still be at risk for developing mesothelioma cancer.

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