It might be fairly obvious, but asbestos plant workers had one of the most dangerous jobs because of how they worked in direct contact with this substance every day.
With some of the other professions like construction or appliance installing, you did encounter asbestos-related products once in a while, but the advantage was how it only happened once in a while. When you worked in one of these factories that specialized in asbestos-related products, you were guaranteed to work with it day in and day out, which was almost guaranteed to have some long-term consequences on your health. The only thing is it might take a couple decades before the ill effects rear their head.
Exposure in the Profession
When looking at the manufacturing of this substance for products, you could separate it into five different categories.
To begin with, you will have the bags that are made from the raw fiber of asbestos. This is in its pure form. The employees of the factory will grab the bags and take them over to a machine that is meant to sort them out for the final product. The materials within the machine get made into a smaller product that is more manageable. After the fibers have been made into a smaller form, the next step will be for the asbestos plant workers to pick up the fiber bags, and they will be moved over to another section of the process where phase two can begin.
In the second phase of this process, the employees will be working to help refine the product. For example, they will send the product through the machine, and the machine helps to eliminate many of the impurities that you find in it. The biggest problem, however, with the second stage was how it would often stir up a cloud of dangerous dust. At the time, no one realized how dangerous this could be as you breathed it in all day long. However, the air duct system helped to eliminate the dust in the room. This was before asbestos-related products had been linked to cancer.
In the third phase of the process of working with asbestos-related products, you would take the refined product and start to spin it up. This is much like the process that you might see used with wool or yarn. In fact, the machine will slowly create what looked a lot like a ball of yarn.
For the fourth stage of the process, you have an organization of the product into different types of categories. The different sizes will be used for different products.
The final stage will have you working with the cloth and getting it ready to go to another part of the process. For example, you will put it into a variety of sizes, and this will help you to figure out how to best proceed from there.
What Do the Studies Show?
Unfortunately, the studies don’t look favorably on these things, and this was unknowingly one of the more dangerous jobs at the time. The longer you worked at the factory doing this job, the worse it became because the dust from the asbestos-based products would start to build up in your lung tissues and cause problems. In fact, the NIOSH conducted a study back in 1998 that learned just how dangerous these products could be. What they found over the long term was how out of the 3,276 participants, 63 were killed because of lung cancer. Meanwhile, an additional 17 deaths were the direct result of the people developing mesothelioma. If that weren’t enough, another 90 deaths were attributed to other types of lung diseases. When you add up the casualties, that’s 170 deaths out of the 3,276 participants. What did the regular population look like? You only had 17 deaths in comparison with the rest of the population. Another problem that was quite unexpected with asbestos-related products was how these things would sometimes even lead to heart issues in the population.
Lawsuits Because of the Occupation
One of the lawsuits that happened with asbestos plant workers came in 1974. It was a lawsuit filed against Manville, a factory that manufactured asbestos-related products. Reba Rudkin, a disgruntled worker, filed a lawsuit against her employer because of how working in the plant led to the development of asbestosis.
She had worked there for 29 years. At the time, it was a difficult lawsuit to pull off because filing a lawsuit against employers was almost never successful, and the best a person could do was to file for workers’ compensation. However, 1981 rolled around the corner, and the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of situations like the Rudkin case. It wasn’t until 1984, however, when Reba Rudkin was awarded $150,000 for her case.