Paper Mill Asbestos Exposure may lead to lung cancer and Mesothelioma
Over the past fifty years, thousands of workers in Ohio’s paper industry could have been put at risk for asbestos exposure. Any amount of exposure to asbestos, long or short term, can cause serious health damage, including deadly cancers such as mesothelioma.
The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls mesothelioma “a fatal cancer primarily associated with exposure to asbestos.”
Like many factories built and managed up until the 1980s, paper mills regularly used asbestos in many building materials as well as in integral factory machinery.
Because paper milling operations, such as pulping, involve very high temperatures, asbestos was used to insulate many areas in the workplace.
Workers who were exposed may still be at risk of developing deadly asbestos-related diseases. Because of the long latency period (20-40 years) of conditions like asbestosis and mesothelioma, some cancers and illnesses may not be diagnosed until decades after initial exposure.
Unfortunately, the problem is still current with an estimated 1.3 million U.S. industry workers potentially exposed to asbestos at their place of work.
Joe Lyon is a highly-rated Cincinnati asbestos lawyer and Ohio toxic exposure attorney reviewing paper mill asbestos exposure for workers nationwide.
Ohio Paper Industry Workers Exposed
Because of the way factories in the Ohio paper industry were constructed, almost anybody who worked in paper mills in the last 50 years could have been exposed to toxic materials on a daily basis. Particularly before the 1980s, paper mills were constructed with industrial adhesives, ceiling and floor tiles and cement that contained asbestos. Because pulping and boiler operations involve high heat, asbestos was used to insulate most of the piping in factories. Consequently, any worker who worked in an area of a building with aging and deteriorating materials may have been unknowingly inhaling asbestos fibers.
Asbestos was also used in wall insulation, roofing shingles and siding, for fire prevention. As a result, large amounts of asbestos dust collected in the air, which exposed almost any worker in the plant.
When workers breathe in these toxins for long periods of time, the fibers can become lodged in the tissue surrounding the lungs, causing inflammation and scarring, and may lead to asbestos-related illnesses such as mesothelioma.
Symptoms of mesothelioma are often mistakes for minor illnesses, and when symptoms present themselves, the disease is usually in its later stages. Some signs present as the following:
- Pain in the side of the chest or lower back
- Shortness of breath
- Excessive sweating
- Weight loss
- Trouble swallowing
- Swelling of the face and arms
Risk of Toxic Exposure
Paper mill workers may have been exposed to asbestos during different stages in the manufacturing process. Some of those positions affected include the following:
- Machine setters
- Machine tenders and operators
- Truck and tractor operators
- Printing machine operators
- Screen printers
- Floor supervisors
- Inspectors and quality control officers
- System operators
- Assemblers and fabricators
- Boiler workers
- Maintenance workers
Maintenance Workers at Highest Risk
Maintenance staff at paper mills faced some of the highest risks of toxic exposure. Maintenance workers, responsible for the inspection and repair of machinery, dismantled machines and opened passageways, often leading to the inhalation of loose asbestos fibers from the insulation and heating elements. One study found that among paper industry employees, the majority of fatal asbestos exposure occurred in maintenance workers.
Dryer Felts Asbestos Hazards
During the paper drying process, dryer felts were commonly used to remove excess moisture. This process posed particular hazards because the dryer felts, or fabrics, contained asbestos.
Dryer felts had to be replaced quite often, and new felt was cut for the machines. When these materials were regularly maintained, asbestos fibers were released from dryer felts in drying machines, further endangering maintenance employees.
Paper Industry Asbestos Exposure
- Paper cutting, sawing and slicing
- Banding, wrapping, boxing, stitching, or sealing paper or paperboard sheets
- Transporting raw materials (wood, pulp, etc.)
- Inspecting machines
- Repairing machines
- Handling talc and sanding paper
- Working on piping and boilers
Paper Mill Asbestos & Mesothelioma
Several international health agencies have raised concerns over the safety of working in paper mills. The American Journal of Epidemiology published a conclusive study conducted by Johns Hopkins researchers that found mill workers were “at increased risk of dying from lung cancer and mesothelioma, probably due to exposure to asbestos.”
A study published in 2010 by the Public Health Agency of Canada found that asbestos exposure among paper and pulp mill workers has been linked to an increased risk of developing cancer. They note that the increased risk “relates to lung and pleural cancers and asbestos exposure.”
In 2002, a European study for the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) examined over 60,000 men from 13 different countries who had worked for a period of at least one year in the pulp and paper industry in the last 60 years. The study concluded that 36 percent of these workers had been exposed to asbestos fibers.
A Swedish study in 2001 showed an increased risk of mesothelioma among paper mill workers. Over 70 percent of the victims had been exposed to asbestos, the majority working as maintenance workers in the factories.
Paper Mill Asbestos Lawsuits
- In 2014, a jury in Oregon awarded $3.9 million to the family of a former insulation contractor at a paper mill. The former worker died from malignant pleural mesothelioma after he was exposed to asbestos on the job. Jurors concluded the defendants breached their duty to provide a safe place to work, and that the various safety breaches were a substantial factor in causing the decedent’s mesothelioma.
- In a separate case in Washington, a former employee of the Crown Zellerbach Paper Mill won a $10.2 million judgment after he was diagnosed with mesothelioma. The plaintiff worked for over 30 years in the factory, and claimed the dryer felts used on machinery supplied by two companies (Scapa Dryer Fabrics, Inc. and AstenJohnson, Inc.) exposed him to high levels of asbestos, ultimately causing him to develop mesothelioma.
- In another case against the same suppliers, three former paper mill employees, who worked as millwrights and machine operators, were awarded more than $800,000 by Washington juries. Lawyers in the case alleged that the companies knowingly exposed them to asbestos.
Prominent asbestos attorneys have filed claims against the following companies, stating they provided dangerous products, and endangered thousands of workers in Ohio and around the country:
- Champion International
- International Paper Company
- Kaiser Aluminum
- W.R. Grace Co.
- AstenJohnson, Inc.
- Scapa Dryer Fabrics, Inc.
Ohio Paper Mill Asbestos Exposure
Below are some of the Ohio paper industry employers that may have exposed workers to asbestos:
- Glatfelter Co. (Chillicothe, Ohio)
- Glatfelter Co. (Freemont, Ohio)
- Middletown Paper Mill
- Sorg Paper Company
- Ohio Boxboard
- Urbana Paper Mill
- Fox River Paper
- Howard Paper
- Neenah Paper
Ohio Asbestos Attorney
Any current or former employee in the Ohio paper industry may have been exposed to toxins in an unsafe work environment. Victims of paper mill asbestos exposure may have a claim against an employer. Attorneys in Ohio have filed numerous lawsuits, claiming employers have been negligent for the following:
- Failing to warn employees of the presence of asbestos fibers on their premises
- Failing to comply with state and federal safety regulations applicable to workplaces
- Failing to measure the creation of airborne asbestos fibers in their workplaces
- Failing to take measures to protect employees from exposure to airborne asbestos fibers
- Failing to implement appropriate precautions and provide necessary safety equipment
- Failing to supervise and coordinate the workers’ activities to guard against dangers in common work areas creating a high risk of injury to workers.