Mesothelioma and Asbestos Exposure in Michigan
If you have worked and lived in Michigan for significant amount of time, there is a chance that you were exposed to asbestos at home or in the workplace. Prolonged exposure to asbestos can lead to serious health problems including pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer.
As a service to people who live in Michigan, we have compiled the following information about asbestos and mesothelioma in the state. Below you will find recent statistics about asbestos exposure and mesothelioma in Michigan. We have also included descriptions of the industries and lists of cities, towns and specific job sites in Michigan where asbestos exposure has occurred. Local Michigan mesothelioma doctors and treatment centers are listed and recent news articles about asbestos and mesothelioma in Michigan are also provided.
Michigan Mesothelioma and Asbestos Statistics
Michigan is part of the Rust Belt area of the United States, which tends to have a higher amount of asbestos exposure and a greater incidence of mesothelioma than other states.
From 1999-2015, 1,573 Michigan residents died from mesothelioma
- Michigan has an above-average mesothelioma death rate of about 9.3 people per million annually (Source: CDC)
- There are 9 known asbestos mines and natural deposits in Michigan (Source: USGS)
- The Upper Peninsula of Michigan has a higher mesothelioma mortality rate, but the Lower Peninsula has a higher population density with more mesothelioma cases (Source: Journal of the American Medical Association)
Asbestos Use Across Michigan Industries
Michigan is perhaps best known for its status as a motor vehicle manufacturing center, which historically has used a lot of asbestos in products like brake pads, clutches, and gaskets. Lake Michigan also has some shipyards where asbestos has been used heavily in the past.
Detroit has been the epicenter of the U.S. automotive industry for well over a century since Henry Ford started the Ford Motor Company in that city. Automobile plants are asbestos-heavy industries and represent the majority of asbestos exposure sites in Michigan. In addition to Ford, other Michigan car manufacturers that exposed their employees to the deadly material include General Motors, Chrysler, Plymouth, the Continental Motor Company, and the Hudson Motor Car Corporation.
Michigan has a significant number of steel mills, foundries, and metalworking shops to support the car-making industry. Given the high heat involved in melting, molding, and tempering steel, asbestos was often used in protective gear and in the machines and products used to manipulate the metal. Some of the jobsites where steelworkers became exposed to asbestos include the Great Lakes Steel Mill, the Detroit Grey Iron Foundry, the Michigan Steel Foundry, and National Steel.
In addition to being divided in two by Lake Michigan, the State of Michigan is bordered by three other Great Lakes, making it the state with the largest inland coastline in the country (according to the NOAA). This access to deep inland waters provides plenty of space for shipbuilding activities within the state and its immediate neighbors. Defoe Shipyard and Eldean Shipyard are two sites where shipbuilders may have been exposed to asbestos.
Like so many other states, Michigan has had problems with asbestos exposure in its power generating facilities. Companies like Detroit Edison, Northern Michigan Electric Cooperative, and Central Michigan Light and Power Company have all exposed their workers to the deadly substance, and the state’s several nuclear plants – including Cook Nuclear Power Plant, Bridgeman Nuclear Plant, and Big Rock Point Nuclear Power Plant – have all used asbestos heavily in their operations.
Although the state does not have a huge oil industry, in order to keep up with its industrial needs, Michigan does have a number oil refineries and distribution hubs that used asbestos to prevent or contain fires due to the highly volatile nature of the fuel. Some known oil companies that have exposed their workers in Michigan include the Citrin Oil Company, Consolidated Oil, Marathon Oil, and the synthetic liquid gas plant in Marysville, among others.
Asbestos Shipyards in Michigan
According to measurements used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Michigan has the most coastline of any inland state due to its location bordering four of the five Great Lakes. As a result, shipping and shipbuilding are major industrial concerns in Michigan, with plenty of harbors, dry docks, and shipyards both in the state and just over the border in neighboring states.
The Defoe Shipbuilding Company was founded in Bay City, MI, in 1905 as a humble manufacturer of wooden fishing boats. As the company grew, it soon changed its name to Defoe Boat and Motor Works, and it began creating boats with gasoline engines, including two cruisers that the company sold to the U.S. Navy for use during World War I. By the time World War II came about, Defoe was much larger and built more than 150 naval ships to participate in the naval war. In the post-war years, the company continued to build ships for the Navy, as well as commercial bulk freighters that operated on the Great Lakes shipping routes. During this entire period, the company used asbestos as part of its manufacturing process, as was standard for nearly all shipbuilders in those days. In 1976, the company was forced to close after its contracts with the Navy began to run out – although the Defoe Shipyard’s “legacy” continued to live on in the lungs of those who worked there and later developed mesothelioma.
Jesiek Brothers Shipyard (Eldean Shipyard)
Gus, Otto and Joe Jesiek started their shipbuilding business in 1901 on the Grand River in Grand Rapids, MI. While Joe and Otto left a few years later to start a marina on Lake Macatawa (then known as Black Lake), Gus continued the shipyard business throughout the early 1900s, building boats anywhere from 24 – 75 feet in length. In the lead-up to World War II, the company built submarine chasers that helped patrol the Atlantic coast of the U.S., as well as some tug boats for use at naval shipyards. After the war, the company continued to produce many types of commercial and recreational boats, including ferries, yachts, and other ships, and the Jesiek Brothers Shipyard soon became the largest shipyard on Lake Michigan for servicing and docking, and eventually the company was sold and became Eldean Shipyard. Throughout its heyday, however, Jesiek Brothers Shipyard used tons of asbestos in its boats, exposing shipbuilders and craftsmen to the deadly dangers of this carcinogen.
Michigan Cities with Known Asbestos Exposure
Learn more about asbestos exposure in the major towns and cities of Michigan by clicking on the links below. If you worked at any of the jobsites highlighted on these pages, there is a possibility that you may have been exposed to asbestos which is known to cause the terminal cancer mesothelioma.
Asbestos Risks at Smaller Michigan Job Sites
Beyond the major cities and towns in Michigan, asbestos exposure has also occurred at a number of other job sites. Select a town to see the list of its work sites where asbestos exposure occurred. Asbestos exposure at any one of the sites revealed could put a worker at risk to develop pleural mesothelioma.
Asbestos-Related News in Michigan
Following the news of asbestos found in makeup products from Claire’s and Justice retailers, two popular children's and tweens' brands, Michigan Congresswoman Debbie Dingell is seeking new legislation to prevent future asbestos exposure.
The State of Michigan is cracking down on demolitions contractors in Detroit after discovering numerous properties containing asbestos were mishandled.
Author: Linda Molinari
Editor in Chief, Mesothelioma Cancer AllianceRead about Linda
Reviewer: Jennifer R. Lucarelli
Lawyer for Mesothelioma Victims and Their FamiliesRead about Jennifer
Statutes of Limitations. "Michigan Statutes of Limitations",
Michigan Supreme Court. "Administrative Order 2006-06: Prohibition on 'Bundling' Cases".