Paper Mill Workers and Mesothelioma
Pulp and paper workers have long been exposed to a mixture of hazardous substances during the production of paper. The hazardous substances include asbestos, a carcinogen that causes a respiratory cancer known as mesothelioma. Asbestos is a mineral fiber that was used for many decades as a raw material in the production of products such as fiber board, packaging materials and ceiling tiles. Paper workers who worked around asbestos in the 1960s and 1970s may only recently have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or experienced symptoms of asbestos-related cancer.
Paper Mill Workers and Asbestos Exposure
Paper mills are dusty, noisy places even today. And the work conditions were worse in previous decades. Airborne asbestos dust was often present. Pulp and paper workers operate machinery that converts wood chips and plant fibers into paper and paper products, including coated papers, fiber board, paper board and ceiling tile. Asbestos was widely used as an insulating material in boilers and process equipment, such as the brakes on rolling machines. Paper workers were often exposed to inhaling airborne asbestos dust that would lodge in the lungs and cause gradual scarring and tissue damage.
Paper workers also may have been exposed to asbestos if the manufacturing plant used asbestos in the production of products. For example, a health screening of former workers at the Conwed plant in Cloquet, Minnesota, conducted by the Minnesota Department of Health showed that 27 percent of the paper workers and their spouses had health abnormalities consistent with asbestos exposure. The plant used asbestos as a raw material in production of ceiling tiles and fiber board from 1958 to 1974.
A 2002 study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer of exposure to asbestos and pleural cancer among 63,000 pulp and paper workers found that 36 percent were exposed to asbestos. The study suggested that pulp and paper workers have an increased occupational risk of mesothelioma and pleural cancer because of asbestos exposure.
Paper workers exposed to asbestos in the 1960s,1970s and 1980s may only recently have been diagnosed with mesothelioma because of the long latency period of the disease.
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