Mesothelioma in Chemical Technicians

Quick Summary

Chemical plants are industrial facilities that produce chemicals. To this day, chemical plants are an essential part of the U.S. economy and employ hundreds of workers per plant. Unfortunately, these workplaces are renowned for their use of asbestos. Due to the abundance of the toxic substance, many chemical technicians in these environments will have been, unknowingly, exposed to asbestos.

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Mesothelioma and Chemical Technicians Explained

Until the late 1970s, chemical plants commonly used asbestos as an inexpensive way to defend equipment from chemical reactions. Before this time, the dangers of asbestos were relatively unknown. In fact, many companies used this heat-resistant material to protect their workers against chemical burns and fires.

Chemical technicians are responsible for producing and developing chemical products, including:

  • Synthetic rubber
  • Pharmaceutical manufacturing
  • Filament manufacturing

Chemical technicians come in close contact with chemicals, and today there are many health and safety procedures in place to protect these workers. But in the last century, workers were only provided with ‘protective’ clothing, which could do more damage than good.

Did you know?

Protective overalls were made using asbestos, so day after day chemical technicians inhaled these fibers, which could become embedded in the linings of their lungs, abdomen or heart.

When chemical technicians inhaled asbestos, it put them at risk of developing mesothelioma—a rare and deadly form of cancer. Mesothelioma takes 20-50 years to develop. If you were a chemical technician who has since developed mesothelioma, then you should know there are standard treatments available to relieve your symptoms and prolong your life.

History of Asbestos Exposure in Chemical Technicians

Throughout their work history, chemical technicians would have been exposed to harmful asbestos in many ways, including through equipment, wall insulation and their protective clothing.

One of the most dangerous jobs for these technicians was when repairing machinery, as this would disturb the asbestos fibers and make them easier to inhale. Technicians could also bring these fibers home on their shoes, which also put family members at risk of contamination.

Today there are laws to protect workers against asbestos, including better protective clothing, face masks and gloves. From the late 1970s, asbestos was no longer used in machinery, though the danger remains for those workers who are tasked with repairing older pieces of machinery.

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Highest Risk Jobs for Asbestos Exposure in Chemical Technicians

There are three significant areas that risk asbestos exposure in chemical technicians working in a chemical plant:

1. Equipment and Machinery

The material was commonly used in the tools and apparatus that workers employed on a day-to-day basis. Old machines would often contain asbestos insulation around pipes and valves to keep them in place and avoid fires.

When chemical technicians were fixing machinery or replacing parts, they would take apart the machines and, unknowingly, put themselves at risk of inhaling the mesothelioma-causing asbestos fibers.

2. Older Facilities

Old buildings commonly contained asbestos within the walls. Chemical plants are usually built in industrial areas away from towns and housing. But if the plant was built between 1940 and 1980, there is a chance that asbestos could be hidden in the molding, cement, paint and insulation.

3. Protective Clothing and Equipment

Perhaps the most shocking way in which chemical technicians could be exposed to asbestos was through their clothing.

Workers were provided with ‘protective’ clothing to shield them against chemical burns and fires, including:

  • Overalls
  • Face masks
  • Gloves

Unfortunately, these pieces of clothing were actually made of asbestos, meaning that while the workers may have been protected against burns, they were continuously breathing in asbestos fibers while they worked. The face masks, in particular, were in such close contact with the airways that it’s very likely to have caused damage.

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Chemical Technicians and Asbestos Lawsuits

Many companies had mesothelioma-related deaths written into workers’ contracts. One such case is that of Robert Henderson, who died from mesothelioma. He was granted $9 million in compensation after his family filed a lawsuit for wrongful death. Henderson had worked at 2 companies in his career, both of which were known to have used asbestos.

The 2 employers shared the damage, but one of the employers argued that he was due to pay much less because Henderson had only worked at his company for a matter of months.

The mesothelioma lawyer on the case explained that the company had written “any death due to mesothelioma would be considered due to asbestos use” into their company documents as early at 1967, and yet they proceeded to use the toxic material and expose their staff to the dangers.

Mesothelioma law varies by state, but personal injury claims can usually be filed up to 3 years from diagnosis. If a patient dies before the claim has been granted, family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit after death to help pay for funeral costs, loss of earnings and other damages.

The quickest way to settle is to speak with a lawyer who is experienced in mesothelioma cases.

Veterans Support Team
Christopher Dryfoos PhotoWritten by:

Contributing Author

Christopher Dryfoos is a journalist and member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). As the grandson of the U.S. Navy’s first forensic pathologist, he aims to help veterans with mesothelioma access needed care.

View Sources

M Live, "Dow Chemical seeks to overturn verdict of $9 million mesothelioma wrongful death lawsuit". Retrieved from: Accessed on March 23, 2018.

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