Positioned in the southeastern United States, the nation’s fastest growing region, Alabama is the center of the fourth-largest economy in the world. With a highly diverse population and a geographic location spanning from the Appalachian foothills to the Gulf of Mexico, Alabama thrives on a diversity of industries, including:
- Auto manufacturing: Alabama is home to three major international automakers (Mercedes, Honda and Hyundai) and is responsible for the production of hundreds of thousands popular vehicles each year
- Aerospace: Alabama is home to roughly 280 aerospace-defense-related companies, including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Teledyne
- Steel industry: the steel industry continues to thrive in the state; for example, German-based company ThyssenKrupp Steel chose a site in Alabama for a $5 billion steel making plant that will employ more than 2,500 employees
- Chemical manufacturing: Alabama’s chemical manufacturing industry is the second-largest exporter in the state, employing some 9,000 residents
- Food processing: the state ranks second in the nation for catfish sales and us the third-largest broiler producer in the U.S.
- Tire manufacturing: Three of the nation’s major tire manufacturing companies reside in Alabama and offer some 3,500 jobs
- Distribution and warehousing: most of the state’s distribution and warehousing capabilities are found in Birmingham and Mobile
Asbestos and Alabama Industry
While asbestos is regulated today and is no longer used freely, its use was once heavily depended upon by hundreds of companies in the state, especially in the 20th century. It was used by many of the industries that make Alabama thrive; and has therefore been responsible for the development of mesothelioma and other asbestos illnesses in hundreds of workers and residents.
As the above list makes clear, there were many shipyards, power plants, mills and many other facilities in Alabama that used asbestos. Also, government buildings in Mobile and several NASA plants in Huntsville were built using asbestos.
In 2004, a newspaper in Birmingham reported on the severe problems with asbestos in Alabama. One of the stories focused on the firm Rock Wool Manufacturing, which was a cement maker in Leeds. It supposedly added asbestos to its cement products as a bonding agent. When workers who were unprotected handled the cement, they were heavily exposed to asbestos. The firm has been sued by more than 140,000 families.
Also, in 2010, another report in the Huntsville Times indicated that workers discovered asbestos containing materials in the Von Braun Center as it was being rehabbed. Work crews reported that there was asbestos insulation surrounding the duct work and also in the floor tiles and shingles.
Some of the Alabama companies that are confirmed to have used asbestos include these:
- Bender Shipbuilding & Repair Company
- Alabama Dry Dock & Shipping Company
- Moore Dry Dock Company
- Farley Nuclear Plant
- Rock Wool Manufacturing Company
- Sanmina-SCI Corporation
- United Rubber Workers International Union
Hurricane Katrina and Asbestos
In late August 2005, Hurricane Katrina pounded the Gulf Coast around New Orleans with Category 4-5 gusts of wind that exceeded 160 MPH. The diameter of this storm was more than 200 miles and the heavy winds devastated many businesses and homes. The heavy wind and water damage destroyed many buildings that had to be torn down and rebuilt. This caused widespread asbestos exposure in the Gulf Coast region. Asbestos fibers were released into the air, which put all citizens in the region at risk for serious disease.
There also were several tornadoes near Tuscaloosa in April 2011 which also destroyed buildings and exposed thousands of residents to deadly asbestos fibers. More than 6000 buildings were wrecked from the F-4 tornado, and many of them were many decades old and contained large amounts of asbestos insulation
Asbestos was considered a miracle material because of its durability and resistance to heat. Its flexible properties (like fabric) made it especially attractive. In the 20th century the naturally occurring mineral was considered the best and most cost effective insulation material in the U.S. It was used for several applications across many industries in the state.
The following are just a few examples of the types of workers from each industry mentioned above that may have been exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos:
- Auto manufacturing: auto parts makers and repairmen who worked with asbestos-containing brakes, clutches and gaskets
- Aerospace: aeronautical engineers, molders and aircraft mechanics and repairmen
- Steel: workers in steel mills and steel pipe production
- Chemical manufacturing: chemical engineers; chemical equipment operators and tenders; chemical technicians; chemists; mixing and blending machine setters; operators and tenders; and packaging and filling machine operators
- Food processing: food processing workers that worked at processing plants and factories where asbestos materials and equipment such as insulation, valves, pumps, packing, gaskets and ovens were used
- Tire manufacturing: while asbestos was not used in the manufacture of tires directly, it was found in the talc that was often dusted on the rubber molds; tire repairmen are also at risk of asbestos exposure because asbestos fibers may slough off brake linings
- Distribution and warehousing: workers in this industry who distributed asbestos products were put at risk daily
Mesothelioma Attorney Alabama
In Alabama, as in most other U.S. states, industry workers and family members who were exposed to asbestos on a regular basis 30-50 years ago are continuing to be diagnosed with mesothelioma and other cancers. In many cases, companies responsible for such exposure were aware of the dangerous risks associated with asbestos long before they said or did anything to protect their employees. Because of this, victims of asbestos cancer are able to recoup damages for their suffering.
There was a case in 1998 that involved 21 Alabama steelworkers who won a $15 million judgement against a steel company that exposed them to asbestos containing materials. The case was done in Texas so that the statute of limitations in Alabama would not apply. The award came only after 30 minutes of jury deliberation. That company made a grinding wheel that contained asbestos, which was made for cutting pipes. None of the workers were told to wear masks and they inhaled the deadly asbestos fibers, with some of them coming down with mesothelioma years later.
If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma or if your loved one has died as a result of the disease, you may have a claim, entitling you and your family to a significant amount of compensation. To learn more, contact a mesothelioma lawyer Alabama by calling 1-800-352-0871.