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Refractory Plant Workers - Mesothelioma Risks

With hundreds of materials being crushed, ground and packaged each day, there is no doubt a lot of dust and debris is present in a refractory plant. There is also a lot of heat produced by the refracting process, as well as pressure from the large machines that do the work. In the 1940s, refractory plants were home to a lot of asbestos material for these very purposes.

Asbestos is heat, fire and chemical resistant, and is able to withstand large amounts of pressure. The material was added to clothing and uniforms to keep workers safe. Additionally, you could even find it being added to some cement in refractory plants. Asbestos was thought to keep people safe, but it was actually doing the opposite. Asbestos fibers are very dangerous to our health, and prolonged exposure can lead one to develop a rare cancer called mesothelioma.

"Wherever there's heat, there's asbestos" should a common saying, and it is especially true in refractory plants. Whenever a tool or machine containing asbestos was used, it could potentially release asbestos fibers just due to the disturbance. Multiplied by the amount of times these machines and tools were used, and it can really add up. Millions of fibers could be released each time, exposing anyone in the vicinity to the harmful material.

When asbestos fibers are breathed in or swallowed, they travel through the body and end up settling in the lungs and membrane surrounding the lungs, called the mesothelium. Exposure after exposure, these fibers would quickly build up and become embedded, eventually reaching a toxic level. Although asbestos can cause a number of lung and respiratory problems, the biggest effect it can have is causing mesothelioma.

People who have been exposed to asbestos occupationally have a much higher chance of being exposed, and therefore a greater risk for mesothelioma down the road. Mesothelioma does not develop right after exposure, instead it can take 30 or 40 years before becoming apparent. When symptoms begin to start, many people don't notice, because they resemble symptoms of other more common illnesses.

It is when the symptoms persist - and become more and more difficult to live with - that patients seek the help of a doctor. Unfortunately, it is usually too little too late. While the symptoms developed, the mesothelioma was growing larger and taking over more areas of the body. Patients diagnosed with mesothelioma typically do not live more than 2 or 3 years following diagnosis, due to the extent of the cancer's growth and the already poor health they are in.

Refractory plant workers may still be at risk for asbestos exposure, as many of the machines they use are older and still contain asbestos material. Workers should take caution around these objects and wear safety protection whenever possible. It is also important to meet with a doctor on a regular basis, to undergo routine screenings and exams for asbestos and mesothelioma. If there is a chance the mesothelioma does develop, you'll have the upper hand and have a better chance of overcoming it.

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Workers at Risk for Asbestos Exposure

Below are a list of occupations and trades that were at risk for asbestos exposure:

Last Edited: Thu November 14, 2013