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Mesothelioma and Asbestos Risk for Chemical Plant Workers

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Many chemical plant workers may have experienced workplace asbestos exposure. Before the 1980s, asbestos was a common additive in products made by the chemical industry. Factories and equipment also contained asbestos to protect from fire and chemical corrosion. If exposed, chemical plant workers may be at risk of developing asbestos-related diseases.


01. Asbestos Risk for Chemical Plant Workers

How Are Chemical Plant Workers Exposed to Asbestos?

For decades, chemical workers have been at risk of asbestos exposure. Before the 1980s, chemical plants often used asbestos to protect against heat and corrosion. As a result, workers may have experienced exposure during machine maintenance and repair.

Chemical companies regularly used asbestos-containing materials. Asbestos was commonly added to chemical compounds for products such as plastic moldings. During the manufacturing process, chemical plant workers often handled raw asbestos. This put plant workers at high risk of inhaling or ingesting asbestos fibers.

Factories may also contain asbestos in building materials, machinery and equipment. As asbestos-containing products age, fibers may be released into the air. Airborne asbestos may put workers at risk of exposure.

Facts About Chemical Plant Workers
  • 21,740 chemical plant workers in the United States (2021)
  • Asbestos Exposure: Previous and ongoing exposure risk
  • Asbestos-Related Disease Risk: Moderate
  • Similar Occupations: Chemical engineers, chemical technicians, materials engineers

In the 1970s, United States asbestos use began to decrease because of laws and regulations. By the late 1980s, U.S. chemical companies stopped using asbestos in products. Today, old chemical facilities and machinery may contain the mineral.

As a result, chemical plant workers continue to be at risk of asbestos exposure. Workers who experience asbestos exposure may develop related diseases, such as mesothelioma.

What Asbestos Products Put Chemical Plant Workers at Risk?

For many years, chemical plant workers were at a high risk of workplace asbestos exposure. Chemical companies added asbestos to products, such as plastic molding compounds.

Companies used asbestos to protect equipment from chemicals and heat. Machinery throughout chemical plants may have contained asbestos materials. Asbestos-containing parts such as gaskets, insulation and valves were commonly used in chemical plants. Chemical plant workers who repaired or operated asbestos machinery may have been exposed.

Workers at chemical plants also often added asbestos to products. This required handling raw asbestos. Workers also wore fire-protective equipment made with asbestos materials, such as gloves and aprons. If the protective clothing became worn or damaged, it could release dangerous fibers.

Asbestos-containing materials may become dangerous when broken or disturbed. Therefore, handling these materials may release asbestos fibers into the air. Workers may then inhale or ingest these fibers. In some cases, they may also carry asbestos dust home on their clothing. As a result, family members risk secondary exposure. Asbestos exposure may lead to related diseases, such as lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Chemical plant workers also may have been exposed to asbestos from:

Many companies knew the health risks associated with asbestos. Despite this, some asbestos companies continued using the mineral. These negligent companies put individuals in danger for years. Chemical plant workers at these companies may have experienced asbestos exposure.

Manufacturers of Asbestos Products Used by Chemical Plant Workers

  • Allied Chemical Corporation
  • Allied Signal, Inc.
  • American Cyanamid Company
  • Borden Chemical Company
  • Calabama Chemical Company
  • Chevron Phillips Chemical Company
  • Chipman Chemical Company, Inc.
  • Ciba-Geigy Chemical Corporation
  • CONDEA Vista Chemical Company
  • Diamond Shamrock Chemicals
  • Dow Chemical Company
  • Du Pont De Nemours & Company (DuPont)
  • Durez Corporation
  • Dytex Chemical Company
  • General Electric Company (GE)
  • Georgia-Pacific Corporation
  • Hercules Chemical Company
  • Hill Brothers Chemical Company
  • Hooker Chemical Company
  • Industrial Liquid Chemical Company
  • Irwin Chemical Company
  • Kerr-McGee Chemical Corporation
  • Monsanto Chemical Company
  • Naugatuck Chemical Company
  • Olin Mathieson Chemical Corporation
  • Pennwalt Ltd.
  • PetroChemical Products
  • Portland Gas and Coke Company
  • Rhône-Poulenc
  • Rogers Corporation
  • Rostone Corporation
  • Roswell International Air Center
  • Shell
  • Standard Oil Company
  • Stauffer Chemical Company
  • T.H. Agriculture & Nutrition, L.L.C. (a subsidiary of Harcros Chemical Company)
  • Texaco, Inc.
  • Thompson-Hayward Chemical Company
  • Union Carbide Corporation
  • Union Chemical Company, Inc.
  • Uniroyal Holding, Inc.
  • USI Chemical Company
  • W.R. Grace
  • Westinghouse Electric Corporation

Common Places Asbestos Is Found in the Chemical Manufacturing Industry

Chemical plant workers added raw asbestos to products for decades. Workers also operated asbestos-containing machinery and equipment.

Chemical plant workers may still come into contact with older asbestos materials. Some chemical facility areas and equipment continue to put chemical plant workers at risk of exposure.

Equipment in the workplace that may expose chemical plant workers includes:

  • Bunsen burner pads
  • Driers
  • Grinders
  • Heat panels
  • Incinerators
  • Lab countertops
  • Lab ovens
  • Mixing machines
  • Radiators
  • Reactor vessels
  • Steam-jacketed kettles
  • Stoves

Chemical plant buildings may also contain asbestos materials. Chemical plant workers often work in enclosed areas, making airborne asbestos easier to inhale. Despite regulations, workers today may still be in danger of asbestos exposure.

Chemical Plant Workers and At-Risk Trades

Workers with related jobs may handle asbestos products at chemical plants. For example, machinists are responsible for machine maintenance and repair. These workers may be at risk of asbestos exposure and related diseases.

At-risk trades in the chemical manufacturing industry include:

02. Mesothelioma Risk for Chemical Plant Workers

Mesothelioma Risk for Chemical Plant Workers

Many researchers have analyzed the risk of asbestos-related diseases among chemical plant workers.

Studies show chemical plant workers are at higher risk of developing asbestos illnesses than the general public. Early signs of diseases, such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma, are also higher in chemical workers.

  • A 1979 study reviewed chest X-rays of several groups of chemical plant workers. In some participants, the study showed chest abnormalities related to asbestos exposure. The study also examined the health of 185 maintenance workers. The results showed 62% of participants had symptoms of asbestos-related diseases.
  • A 1987 study examined rates of asbestos-related diseases among electrochemical plant workers. Researchers studied 153 men between 1979 and 1980. They followed up with participants in 1985. Study results showed about 24% of workers had lung fibrosis alone or with pleural plaques. Lung fibrosis has been associated with a higher risk of asbestos cancer.
  • In the same 1987 study, researchers also assessed disease rate by level of exposure. In the heaviest asbestos exposure group, 82.5% of participants had related disorders. By 1985, dozens of participants died from asbestos cancers and other illnesses.

Today, chemical plant workers may still risk developing an asbestos-related illness. Asbestos diseases, such as mesothelioma, may take decades to present. This means workers exposed in the past may still develop an illness.

03. Compensation for Chemical Plant Workers

Compensation for Victims of Occupational Asbestos Exposure

For decades, chemical plant workers have filed mesothelioma lawsuits against asbestos companies. These companies endangered employees by using raw asbestos and asbestos-containing materials. Some companies, such as Dow Chemical Company, continued to use asbestos for decades despite knowing the mineral’s health risks.

Jury Awards $5.95 Million to Chemical Plant Worker

In 2013, an asbestos victim won a mesothelioma lawsuit against Dow Chemical Company. The plaintiff experienced asbestos exposure while working at the chemical plant. After a mesothelioma diagnosis, he filed a lawsuit against the company. A jury found Dow Chemical Company at fault and awarded the plaintiff $5.95 million.

Experienced mesothelioma lawyers have helped secure millions of dollars in compensation for these victims. ​​Chemical plant workers may also pursue other compensation options. For example, they may be eligible for asbestos trust fund claims or workers’ compensation. An experienced mesothelioma law firm can help victims understand their eligibility for compensation.

Verdicts or settlements may help victims and their families afford treatment and other expenses.

04. Asbestos Safety

Asbestos Safety for Chemical Plant Workers

In the 1970s, the U.S. began restricting asbestos use in products. Specific organizations handle different types of asbestos regulations and laws. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) oversees enforcement of asbestos laws. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) oversees asbestos safety in the workplace.

Because of health risks at chemical plants, there are specific standards for the industry.

For example, there is a set of EPA regulations for the industry that provide safety practices for many chemical manufacturing activities. Some laws or regulations cover handling hazardous materials, such as asbestos.

These regulations provide asbestos handling and disposal guidelines for workers. The U.S. currently does not have a full ban on asbestos. As a result, asbestos may still exist in some products and machinery. Regulations for chemical plant workers may help lower their risk of asbestos exposure.