Paper is created from vegetable fibers that are processed through an industrial plant. Most paper is made from wood pulp which is bleached, refined, turned into large paper sheets, coated, dried, and finally cut and packaged.
Paper mills can’t survive without the dedicated service of paper mill workers. The workers fulfill several functions, including:
- Operating the processing machinery
- Shipping wood pulp into the mill and sending the final paper products out into the worlds
- Operating heavy equipment such as skid steers, saws, and forklifts
- Managerial positions
Even though we now live in a digital age and many offices have gone paperless, there’s still a high demand for paper in the United States. The paper industry continues to employ thousands of people. The one significant difference between the paper mills of today and the paper mills that were in operation from the 1930s through most of the 1970s is that modern mills no longer rely on asbestos for insulation and other aspects of the business.
Paper Mill Workers and Asbestos Exposure
From the 1930s through the late 1970s asbestos products were popular in a wide assortment of industries, including the paper industry. At the time, it seemed like a cheap reliable method for improving the fire resistance of commercial buildings. No one knew how deadly microscopic bits of asbestos were when they floated through the air the paper mill workers breathed.
In paper mills, asbestos could be found in:
- The insulation
- The equipment the paper mill used in its daily operations, including the drying machines
- The sandpaper backing and talc
- Many of the material used to create the paper mill, including the shingles, paint, cement, doors, and industrial adhesives
Studies indicate that most paper mill workers inhaled asbestos fibers during the production process. While making the paper, the boiler, pipes, and vessels heated up and bits of asbestos flaked off. These particles were inhaled or ingested by the paper mill workers using the equipment, as well as by maintenance and janitorial crews. Since the microscopic asbestos particles were transported away from the paper mill on the workers’ clothing and hair, even the people living with the paper mill workers were exposed to the asbestos.
A group of Swedish researchers noticed that paper mill workers were at an increased risk for developing pleural mesothelioma. When they investigated patients, they noticed that 71% of the paper mill workers who were ill had worked in the maintenance department and most likely inhaled the fibers while repairing machines or cutting and replacing damaged insulation.
A group of Italian researchers investigated a local paper mill where 3 employees had developed pleural mesothelioma and discovered that the equipment contained asbestos. They also revealed that both amosite and chrysotile asbestos cement had been used in the insulation panels.
Paper Mill Lawsuits
In order to cover their medical costs, many former paper mill workers filed lawsuits against their employers or those who manufactured parts containing asbestos.
Paper mills that have lost asbestos-related lawsuits include:
- Scapa Dryer Fabrics, Inc
- Crown Zellerbach Paper Mill
- AstenJohnson Inc
- Kimberly-Clark, Champion International
- International Paper Company
- Scapa Dryer Fabrics, Inc
- Kaiser Aluminum
- W.R. Grace Co.
Mesothelioma lawyers have the skill and experience needed to help paper mill workers who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or other asbestos-related illness reach a settlement that will help cover their medical bills. If you’ve been diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness, contact an attorney today to learn more about your legal options.