Asbestos Exposure in the Textile Industry
The textile industry once used a mineral known as asbestos in the production of many related products, putting those in the industry at risk for dangerous levels of exposure.
The Textile Industry
This industry is vast and a significant component in other industries as well. The U.S. textile industry specifically and its domestic suppliers and customers consist of producing materials in the following areas:
- Man-made fibers
- Yarn and fabric
Related items can be found in a range of capacities from heart valves and stents to manufactured aircraft parts and body armor. The U.S. is the second-largest exporter of textile-related merchandise in the world, with products in over 200 countries.
The U.S. Military and the Textile Industry
The Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines use many products from this industry. Some military tools that utilize related products include:
- Aircraft, vehicle, and tank fuel cells
- Armor and helmets
- Backpacks, bags, blankets
- Fire and cold-resistant uniforms
- Stealth technology
- Tents and shelters
- Weatherproof materials
Over 8,000 materials a year are used as supplies in national defense, over 31,000 when you consider individual sizes for specific items.
Workers Exposed to Asbestos
At one time, a natural mineral known as asbestos was used in many industrial capacities due to its durability and resistance to fire. This caused the mineral to be a key element in the production of many insulation materials and fabrics. In the late 1970s, researchers discovered the mineral to be harmful to human health. Consequently, people who worked before 1982 had already been exposed to it for decades.
Epidemiologic (meaning “disease”) studies have found a heightened risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma development in textile industry workers. Especially those who work in reprocessing plants. There were asbestos-contaminated polypropylene bags that were used to cover bales of textile rags, which were then distributed worldwide. Handlers of those items are especially at risk, as well as those working nearby.
Adding to that, chrysotile (a type of asbestos) was used heavily in the manufacture of other textile products. Three separate but parallel studies examined workers from processing plants between 1938 to 1959, where 35 percent had died from asbestos-related conditions by 1974.
This is because related diseases usually take over 20 years to develop. Since this latency period is so long, it’s believed that a lot of other associated incidences went unreported.
Industry Trades at Risk of Exposure
Some textile industry trades have more exposure liability than others. Related trades with a higher risk include:
These technicians access raw materials used in textiles, develop material specifications for their production, gather and analyze test data, supervise quality control, and work on improving associated processes and materials.
Mill and Manufacturing Workers
This trade works on assembling natural and synthetic fibers purposed to spin into yarn and manufacture into products used in clothing, housewares, and other industrial capacities. Manufacturing workers also clean, card, bomb, and spin fibers; weave, knit, or bond threads into textiles; and dye and finish fabrics. Other jobs that can fall under the manufacturing category can include those who work in dry-cleaning or laundry, interior designers, tailors, upholsterers.
Production Employees / Machinery Operators
As the name suggests, production employees and machinery operators are responsible for using machinery and tools to produce textile products. They also maintain, service, and repair the machinery used in manufacturing.
Bans on Asbestos
After researchers determined the mineral harmful to human health and officially classified it as a carcinogen (i.e., a cancer-causing substance), government organizations like the Environmental Protection (EPA) put laws and regulations in place to protect workers and residents from harmful exposure. These laws hold building owners accountable for ensuring that dangerous levels of asbestos be removed before workers or residents are allowed to frequent the area.
Compensation for Exposure Victims
There are many laws and regulations to protect workers and residents from dangerous levels of exposure to toxins. This means those who are diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases due to exposure in the workplace may able to attain financial indemnity from the companies responsible.
An attorney can gather all pertinent data and information, interview asbestos companies, and create and represent a legal claim on your behalf. However, there is a time limit that starts right when a person is diagnosed with the disease. This is also known as the statute of limitations, or the time a person has to file a legal claim against another entity.
If You Think You’ve Been Exposed
Those who’ve worked in this industry may be concerned about their exposure to toxic substances. If your concerned, visit your doctor immediately. Especially if you’re experiencing symptoms like shortness of breath, chronic cough, or chest pain.
Express your concerns and the doctor will perform medical exams and tests to determine the extent of your illness (if there is any). Once the test results come in, your doctor will give you an official medical diagnosis and recommend steps for treatment.