Written By: Michelle Whitmer,
Last modified: June 7, 2021
Quick Facts
  • Ranking in Deaths:
    24th
  • Mesothelioma Deaths:
    524
  • Asbestosis Deaths:
    247
  • Total Deaths:
    771

About Alabama

Asbestos exposure in Alabama primarily occurs in occupational settings. Residents who don’t work around asbestos products have a low risk of exposure to naturally occurring asbestos in Alabama.

The naturally occurring deposits of asbestos in Alabama are located near the Georgia state line, north of Auburn. Some of these deposits were once asbestos mining prospects, but they were never mined commercially. These deposits sit at the end of a string of asbestos deposits that dot the Appalachian Mountains.

It was common for industrial and manufacturing companies in Alabama to use asbestos for a range of applications because of the mineral’s heat resistance and insulation properties. Residents who worked in certain industries, such as manufacturing and construction, were at a higher risk of exposure before asbestos became regulated in the 1970s.

Alabama residents who develop asbestos-related diseases have access to excellent health care at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Comprehensive Cancer Center and cancer support resources are available throughout the state.

Asbestos exposure in Alabama primarily occurs in occupational settings. Residents who don’t work around asbestos products have a low risk of exposure to naturally occurring asbestos in Alabama.

The naturally occurring deposits of asbestos in Alabama are located near the Georgia state line, north of Auburn. Some of these deposits were once asbestos mining prospects, but they were never commercially mined. These deposits sit at the end of a string of asbestos deposits that dot the Appalachian Mountains.

It was common for industrial and manufacturing companies in Alabama to use asbestos for a range of applications because of the mineral’s heat resistance and insulation properties. Residents who worked in certain industries, such as manufacturing and construction, were at a higher risk of exposure before asbestos became regulated in the 1970s.

Alabama residents who develop asbestos-related diseases have access to excellent health care at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Comprehensive Cancer Center and cancer support resources are available throughout the state.

At-Risk Occupations in Alabama

The use of asbestos was once prevalent in shipyards, power plants, mills and many other industrial facilities. Anyone who worked for the military, government, manufacturing and construction industries were particularly at risk of asbestos exposure.

Government & Shipping

Government buildings in Mobile and NASA facilities in Huntsville were constructed with asbestos, exposing unprotected workers to dangerous fibers. Workers at the Alabama Drydock & Shipping Company in Mobile have filed numerous legal claims against the shipyard for asbestos exposure that caused related disease.

Veterans

Veterans who lived and worked at Fort McClellan, a U.S. Army training installation near Anniston, Alabama, were at risk of exposure to asbestos and many other toxic substances. Fort McClellan housed the Chemical Corps and its school, which trained soldiers in chemical warfare. The use and disposal of chemical weapons and toxic waste, including asbestos waste, contaminated the soil and water supply.

Many veterans were exposed to various toxic substances before the base closed in 1999. Cleanup and environmental remediation of the property was completed in 2014. McClellan is now home to the Alabama National Guard and a mixed-use community.

Steel Workers

Steel and factory workers in Birmingham, Fairfield, Ensley and Irondale were exposed to asbestos-contaminated vermiculite. Thousands of tons of raw ore from the asbestos-contaminated vermiculite mine in Libby, Montana, were shipped to U.S. Steel Corporation plants and Zonolite exfoliation facilities in these cities up to 1981. Asbestos exposure at Zonolite exfoliation facilities was particularly high because they processed raw ore in ways that generated a lot of asbestos-contaminated dust.

Factory Workers

Factory workers at Shook and Fletcher, an industrial insulation manufacturer in Birmingham, were exposed to asbestos prior to 1980. The company used asbestos in their insulation from the 1950s through the 1970s. Shook and Fletcher had to declare bankruptcy in 2002 because of asbestos litigation.

Cement Manufacturing

In 2004, the Birmingham News printed a series of reports on the severity of asbestos problems in Alabama. One story detailed how Rock Wool Manufacturing, a cement manufacturer in Leeds, added asbestos to its products as a bonding agent. When unprotected workers handled the cement, they were exposed to the toxic substance. The company received more than 140,000 lawsuits from workers and their families as a result of the exposures.

Sports & Entertainment

A July 2010 report in the Huntsville Times showed that workers also found asbestos during a renovation of the Von Braun Center. Brandi Quick, assistant director of the sports and entertainment facility, said that workers had located asbestos in four sections of the building. Crews reported finding asbestos in the ductwork, in the floor tiles and in some exterior panels.

Schools

Numerous schools in Alabama have removed asbestos from their buildings. In 2017, several elementary and high schools announced plans to remediate or remove asbestos-containing materials such as asbestos piping and pipe insulation.

Treatment Centers near Alabama

1824 6th Ave S. Birmingham, AL 35233Doctors in Hospital: 5
1365C Clifton Road, Atlanta, GA 30322Doctors in Hospital: 4
1514 Jefferson Highway, New Orleans, LA 70121Doctors in Hospital: 4
1588 Union Ave., Memphis, TN 38104Doctors in Hospital: 1
250 25th Avenue North, Nashville, Tennessee 37203Doctors in Hospital: 4
1411 Laney Walker Blvd. Augusta, GA 30912Doctors in Hospital: 1

Doctors in Alabama

James Donahue
Thoracic Surgeon
Benjamin Wei
Thoracic Surgeon
Chris M. Dobelbower
Radiation Oncologist
Hitesh Batra
Pulmonologist

Alabama Jobsites with Confirmed Asbestos Exposure

The use of asbestos was once prevalent in shipyards, power plants, mills and many other industrial facilities. Anyone who worked for the military, government, manufacturing and construction industries were particularly at risk of asbestos exposure.

Anniston

  • Fort McClellan

Athens

  • Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant
  • Fort McClellan

Birmingham

  • Alabama Power Plant
  • Ingalls Steel Construction Co.
  • Shook & Fletcher

Dothan

  • Farley Nuclear Plant

Huntsville

  • Sanmina-SCI Corp.
  • Union Carbide Chemical Plant

Leeds

  • Rock Wool Manufacturing Co.

Mobile

  • Bender Shipbuilding & Repair Co.
  • Alabama Dry Dock & Shipping Co.

Tuscaloosa

  • Gulf States Paper Mill
  • Alabama Dry Dock & Shipping Co.

Tuscaloosa Tornadoes

The Tuscaloosa Tornadoes of April 2011 resulted in similar health risks. Damage from the deadly tornadoes in the college town exposed residents to asbestos products that had lain dormant for more than 50 years when asbestos use was at an all-time high.

The devastating tornado that tore through the city of Tuscaloosa was one of the largest documented incidences of asbestos exposure.

Although many of the state and federal facilities affected by the tornado damage fell under strict regulations for asbestos removal and disposal, the single-family dwellings containing asbestos did not fall under the same guidelines.

Quick Fact:
6,000+ structures took damage from the F-4 tornado, most of them containing insulation and other materials laced with asbestos.

Alabama Asbestos Laws

In the past, Alabama state law made it difficult for mesothelioma patients or surviving family members to file claims against the companies responsible for asbestos exposure. Historically, Alabama enforced a “last exposure rule” that placed a one-year statute of limitations on people filing asbestos lawsuits.

Victims of asbestos exposure could only file a claim within one year of their last exposure, regardless of when they were diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease.

This prevented victims of asbestos exposure from filing legal claims because mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases take 20 to 50 years to develop after the first exposure to asbestos.

Quick Fact:
In 2016, the Alabama legislature passed Leni’s Law to allow patients access to cannabis oil, an extract of medical marijuana that offers health benefits to cancer patients without the high that accompanies THC-containing medical marijuana.

In May 1980, Alabama modified the “last exposure rule” for asbestos victims and established a more reasonable “discovery rule” for these cases. While the one-year statute of limitations still applies to claims where the last exposure to asbestos occurred before 1979, the statute of limitations for any exposures after May 17, 1980, begins when victims discover they have an asbestos-related disease. Various amendments and a 2008 overruling of the old statute have updated the law to current standards, meaning people have two years from the time of diagnosis to file a legal claim.

People with asbestos-related disease should speak with an Alabama mesothelioma lawyer or an attorney experienced in asbestos litigation if they have legal questions.

Alabama Asbestos Lawsuits

The case was filed in Texas so that Alabama’s statute of limitations would not apply. A Brazoria County jury awarded the verdict after finding the Carborundum Co. “acted with gross negligence and malice” and exposed the workers to harmful amounts of asbestos. The company manufactured an asbestos-containing grinding wheel used to cut pipes at a U.S. Steel mill in Birmingham.

The workers did not wear masks when using the grinding wheel and inhaled asbestos fibers through dust that was created. The award, which came after only 30 minutes of deliberation, was $15.6 million in actual damages and $100 million in punitive damages.

$15.6 Million Judgement
Twenty-one Alabama steelworkers won their case in 1998 against a steel mill that exposed them to asbestos.

In 2017, an Alabama judge ordered a recalculation of medical expenses owed by the family of Barbara Bobo, who died of pleural mesothelioma in 2013. Bobo’s family was awarded more than $3 million in 2015 for pain and suffering and medical expenses, but the court wanted a final calculation of the actual medical expenses owed. Bobo was billed more than $500,000, but agreements with insurers ultimately reduced the amount owed.

Chief Judge Ed Carnes sent the case back to the district court for recalculation of medical expenses and upheld the original award of $3 million for the Bobo family. Barbara was exposed to asbestos while washing her husband’s work clothes. James “Neal” Bobo worked at the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant in Athens, Alabama for more than 20 years, where he cleaned up after insulators and asbestos workers. Neal died of a heart attack following his diagnosis of asbestos-related lung cancer in 1997.

Cancer Support Resources in Alabama

Local resources are available to people with cancer in Alabama. The Cancer Wellness Foundation of Central Alabama helps patients access transportation to medical appointments, advocates for proper care and provides nutritional counseling. Cancer Freeze is an annual fundraiser held in Florala that raises money for local families affected by cancer. The Ronald McDonald House offers affordable temporary housing to cancer patients and their families in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa. Survivors can work with the Alabama Cancer Action Center, which fights cancer by supporting laws and policies that promote cancer research and improve patient care.


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