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Mesothelioma and Asbestos Risk for Textile Mill Workers

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Before the 1980s, textile mill workers commonly handled asbestos products and raw asbestos. Textile mill workers were responsible for weaving asbestos fibers into cloth. As a result, many textile workers may have been exposed to the mineral. Today, workers may still be at risk of developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.


01. Asbestos Risk for Textile Mill Workers

How Are Textile Mill Workers Exposed to Asbestos?

Before the 1980s, many textile mill workers may have experienced asbestos exposure. Textile mill workers were responsible for making asbestos textile products. Because the mineral has fire-resistant qualities, asbestos was commonly used in textiles.

During the manufacturing process, workers often wove raw asbestos fibers into cloth. This put asbestos textile workers at a high risk of exposure to airborne fibers. As a result, many textile workers are at risk of developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.

Facts About Textile Mill Workers
  • 99,700 textile mill workers in the United States (2022)
  • Asbestos Exposure: Previous and ongoing exposure risk
  • Asbestos-Related Disease Risk: High
  • Similar Occupations: Fabricators, industrial workers, tailors

Textile mill workers were also at risk of exposure from asbestos-containing machinery and building materials. Pipes, gaskets and various types of equipment were commonly insulated using asbestos products. As these materials age, asbestos dust may be released into the air.

Beginning in the 1970s, United States asbestos laws began to limit the use of asbestos. By 1990, U.S. laws prohibited the manufacture and distribution of asbestos clothing. Although many asbestos products have been discontinued, textile workers may still risk exposure from old products and equipment.

What Asbestos Products Put Textile Mill Workers at Risk?

At textile mills, workers were responsible for making a variety of products. Engineering has made it possible to weave asbestos fibers into cloths, tapes, threads and yarns. While making these products, textile mill workers may have experienced asbestos exposure.

The machinery and equipment workers used while creating asbestos textiles could also cause exposure. Textile mills themselves may have been built with asbestos-containing products, further contributing to workers’ risk of exposure.

Textile mill workers may have been exposed to asbestos from:

Many companies manufactured and sold asbestos textile products. As a result, textile mill workers were frequently put at risk of exposure while making and using asbestos products.

Asbestos Textile and Product Manufacturers That May Have Exposed Textile Mill Workers

Common Places Asbestos Is Found in the Textile Industry

Individuals working in asbestos textile mills were at high risk of occupational exposure. The process of weaving, twisting and cutting asbestos textiles often released fibers into the air.

However, individuals who worked in mills making non-asbestos textile products were also at risk of exposure. In many types of textile mills, looms and other machines were equipped with asbestos insulation, gaskets and other products.

Types of textile mills where workers may have been exposed include:

  • Cotton mills
  • Fabric mills
  • Fiber, yarn and thread mills
  • Knitting mills

Conditions in textile mills were often dusty and poorly ventilated. These conditions increased the likelihood of workers ingesting or inhaling airborne asbestos fibers.

Textile Mill Workers and At-Risk Trades

Many individuals working in textile mills experienced exposure directly from making asbestos products. In other cases, maintenance workers and other individuals working inside the mills were also exposed to asbestos dust.

Many types of workers at textiles mills may experience asbestos exposure. At-risk trades in the textile industry include:

In some cases, textile mill workers may bring asbestos fibers home on their hair and clothing. This puts workers’ loved ones at risk of secondary asbestos exposure. Textile workers and family members who develop an asbestos illness after exposure may be eligible to file a lawsuit. An experienced mesothelioma lawyer can help victims understand their legal options for compensation.

02. Mesothelioma Risk for Textile Mill Workers

Mesothelioma Risk for Textile Mill Workers

For many years, textile mill workers have been at a high risk of asbestos exposure. Textile mill workers who have experienced exposure are at risk of developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses.

Multiple studies have shown textile workers are diagnosed with asbestos illnesses at higher rates than the general population. These workers also face high mortality rates from these illnesses.

In the 1970s, researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) studied workers at an asbestos textile, friction and packing plant. Researchers found workers died from lung cancer and asbestosis at higher rates than expected. Several plant workers also died from mesothelioma cancer.

In a 2018 study, Italian researchers studied mesothelioma cases in women. In the study, researchers found the most common cause of exposure for women was working in a non-asbestos textile mill. Non-asbestos textile mills are those where asbestos is present in the process and equipment but is not directly used in the fabrics.

Individuals who worked in a textile mill in the past may still be at risk of mesothelioma. Asbestos illnesses, such as mesothelioma, have a latency period of up to 50 years. This means workers exposed in the past may develop these diseases years after initial exposure.

03. Asbestos Safety

Asbestos Safety for Textile Mill Workers

Beginning in the 1970s, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created laws to limit asbestos use in the U.S. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also created regulations to protect individuals from occupational asbestos exposure.

Other organizations, such as the International Finance Corporation (IFC), have also published guidelines for the textile industry. For example, the IFC outlines asbestos safety precautions in its environmental, health and safety guidelines. These recommendations include:

  • Enclosing dust-producing equipment
  • Installing fabric filters to prevent outdoor emissions
  • Using dust extraction and recycling systems to remove dust from work areas
  • Using local exhaust ventilation

These rules help textile mill workers and the general public decrease their risk of asbestos exposure.