There are a number of known Missouri asbestos exposure sites. Chief among them is W.R. Grace & Co.’s Zonolite plant in St. Louis, which processed nearly 105,000 tons of asbestos-contaminated vermiculite ore shipped from the mines in Libby, Montana.
Workers may have been exposed to asbestos anywhere in and around the plant from activities such as unloading vermiculite, moving it to the furnaces, processing it or handling waste rock afterwards. During the processing of the ore to produce attic insulation and other vermiculite products, asbestos was released into the air and posed a potential exposure risk to those who worked, went to school, or lived near the Zonolite plant.
Asbestos exposure in Missouri was likely an occupational hazard for many of the state’s workers who were unknowingly exposed on the job and now suffer from such life-threatening diseases as asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma.
A Case of On-the Job Asbestos Exposure
Workers remain at risk for asbestos exposure today at some Missouri job sites. In fact, Hannibal’s fire chief was forced to retire as part of a settlement reached last year over allegations that he had endangered firefighters by having them remove asbestos-containing materials from two Fire Department buildings in 2009. Asbestos exposure can cause a number of health problems including asbestosis and mesothelioma cancer.
The chief was allegedly aware that the building contained asbestos but he had withheld that information from the rest of the department. The firefighters reportedly removed floor tiles and insulation from the buildings that may have exposed them to asbestos.
Other Missouri Job Sites and Asbestos Exposure
Most of the Missouri job sites where asbestos was used, or is known to have been a danger, consist of power plants and chemical manufacturers. But there were other sites as well.
For instance, the Mack Truck assembly plant in Joplin is similar to auto manufacturing plants when it comes to asbestos issues. Gasket materials and brake linings are two of the components of a vehicle in which asbestos is used.
At least one university has also had an asbestos problem connected to renovation. In addition, the owner of a major hotel chain was fined for violations related to the renovation of one of its sites in Kansas City. The owner of the building had failed to hire licensed asbestos abatement contractors and acknowledged using untrained employees to do the work. As a result, the owner of this chain was assessed fines totaling $300,000.
Naturally Occurring Asbestos Exposure in Missouri
Missouri’s Ozark Mountains have two naturally-occurring deposits of amphibole asbestos, one of which is located in an area southwest of Poplar Bluff. The other one is found near the small town of Advance; there is also a serpentine (chrysotile) deposit in the area, in which an asbestos mining operation once existed.
Asbestos is actually a generic term for several different minerals that are chemically unrelated, but have similar physical properties; namely, they are soft, flexible and fibrous, yet retain the fire resistance of rock. These mineral fibers can be woven into fabric, much like wool or cotton.
Unfortunately, these fibers can have devastating effects on the human respiratory system, causing fibrosis (an increase of fibrous tissue in the lungs), pleural plaques and thickening, and a variety of different forms of asbestos cancer – including lung cancer and mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the pleural lining (defined as pleural mesothelioma), or other parts of the body.