Mesothelioma and Asbestos Risk for Chemical Plant Workers

Expert Fact Checked

This page was legally reviewed by Jennifer Lucarelli. For information on our content creation and review process read our editorial guidelines. If you notice an error or have comments or questions on our content please contact us.

Jennifer Lucarelli Lawyer and Legal Advisor

Chemical plant workers exposed to asbestos on the job may have an increased risk for mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Many chemical plants used asbestos as an additive in products manufactured on-site. The mineral was also used in fire and heat-resistant equipment.

01. Asbestos Risk for Chemical Plant Workers

How Are Chemical Plant Workers Exposed to Asbestos?

For many chemical plant workers, asbestos exposure may have happened at work. Before the 1980s, chemical plants frequently used asbestos in machinery, equipment and protective clothing because of its heat resistance. This put workers at risk of exposure. Workers continue to face exposure today from old asbestos products.

Chemical companies also regularly produced asbestos-containing materials. For example, they commonly added asbestos to chemical compounds for products like 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.

Facts About Chemical Plant Workers
  • 18,710 chemical plant workers in the United States (2022)
  • Asbestos Exposure: Previous and ongoing exposure risk
  • Asbestos-Related Disease Risk: Moderate
  • Similar Occupations: Chemical engineers, chemical technicians, materials engineers

In the 1970s, U.S. 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. Any chemical plant workers exposed to asbestos may develop related diseases, such as mesothelioma.

What Asbestos Products Put Chemical Plant Workers at Risk?

Machinery throughout chemical plants may have contained asbestos materials, such as gaskets, insulation and valves. 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. For some chemical plant workers, asbestos was in the fire-protective equipment they used, such as gloves and aprons. If the protective gear became worn or damaged, it could release dangerous fibers.

Asbestos-containing materials may become dangerous when deteriorated or disturbed. 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 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
  • Chapman 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 Plastics
  • Dytex Chemical Company
  • General Electric Company (GE)
  • Georgia-Pacific Corporation
  • Harcros Chemical Company
  • Hercules Chemical Company
  • Hercules Powder Company
  • Hill Brothers Chemical Company
  • Hooker Chemical Company
  • Houston Refining LP
  • Industrial Liquid Chemical Company
  • Irwin Chemical Company
  • Kerr-McGee Chemical Corporation
  • LyondellBasell Industries
  • Monsanto Chemical Company
  • Naugatuck Chemical Company
  • Olin Corporation
  • Olin Mathieson Chemical Corporation
  • Pennwalt Ltd.
  • Petro Chemical Products
  • Portland Gas and Coke Company
  • Rhône-Poulenc
  • Rogers Corporation
  • Rostone Corporation
  • Roswell Industrial Air Center
  • Shell
  • Standard Oil Company
  • Stauffer Chemical Company
  • Texaco Inc.
  • T.H. Agriculture & Nutrition L.L.C. (a subsidiary of Harcros Chemical Company)
  • Thompson-Hayward Chemical Company
  • TPC Group
  • Union Carbide Corporation
  • Union Chemical Company Inc.
  • Uniroyal Holding Inc.
  • USI Chemical Company
  • Westinghouse Electric Corporation
  • W.R. Grace

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 workers exposed to asbestos may have come into contact with the mineral in buildings where they worked. 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

A study showed that the risk of mesothelioma and asbestos-related disease is higher for chemical plant workers than for the general public. A related study showed a similar high risk for electrochemical plant workers. Those workers had early signs of asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. The related study also indicated that the higher incidence of asbestos diseases comes from the frequent handling of asbestos products.

  • 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

Chemical plant workers with mesothelioma may have legal options. 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 workers and their loved ones. ​​Chemical plant workers may also pursue other compensation options. For example, they may be eligible for asbestos trust fund claims or veterans benefits. An experienced mesothelioma law firm can help victims understand their eligibility for compensation.

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

04. Asbestos Safety

Asbestos Safety for Chemical Plant Workers

To protect chemical plant workers, asbestos companies have to comply with regulations and laws established in the United States during the 1970s. 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 provides 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.

05. Common Questions

Common Questions About Chemical Plant Workers and Asbestos

Are chemical plant workers at a higher risk of asbestos-related diseases?

Research shows that chemical plant workers are at an increased risk for asbestos-related diseases. The risk comes from the frequent use of asbestos-containing products, including machinery and fireproof clothing. When the equipment becomes worn or damaged, it may release asbestos fibers.

What diseases are chemical plant workers at risk for?

Chemical plant workers may develop asbestos-related diseases. These diseases include asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Chemical plant workers in a high asbestos exposure group were studied in 1987. The study found 82.5% of participants had some form of an asbestos-related disorder.

Is compensation available for chemical plant workers affected by occupational asbestos exposure?

Chemical plant workers with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases may be eligible for compensation. Compensation may include trust fund claims, verdicts or settlements. An experienced asbestos law firm can help chemical plant workers exposed to asbestos understand their options.