ranking in U.S. for mesothelioma & asbestosis deaths
Illinois has a broad economic base with large markets in manufacturing, agriculture, coal, petroleum, power generation and timber. In the past, these industries used asbestos-containing materials for their fire-resistant and insulating properties. Many workers exposed to the fibers developed diseases such as mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer, placing Illinois 7th in the nation for asbestos-related deaths.
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Illinois is also home to 30 locations that received at least 372,776 tons of asbestos-contaminated vermiculite from Libby, Montana. The locations with facilities that processed the asbestos-tainted vermiculite include Chicago, Girard, Peoria, Quincy, Buda and Calumet City.
Asbestos continues to be a concern for Illinois. The Johns-Manville Superfund Site in Waukegan, for example, is a noted asbestos hazard by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Another source of asbestos in Illinois can be found in old school buildings. With so much asbestos activity in the state, Madison County, Illinois, has become a national hotspot for asbestos litigation.
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While asbestos products were used in a variety of industries throughout Illinois, those who worked in the state’s oil refineries and power plants have the highest risk for developing asbestos-related diseases. Major oil companies such as Amoco, CITGO, Mobil, Shell and Standard operated oil refineries in Illinois and all have been named defendants in asbestos-related lawsuits.
Power generation plants used asbestos-containing products primarily for their insulating capabilities. Power plants in Illinois where asbestos exposure may have occurred include Zion Nuclear Power Station, Powerton Powerhouse, Dresden Generating Station and Quad Cities Station.
While there are several Superfund Sites in Illinois with asbestos concerns, one in particular is the Johns-Manville site in Waukegan, Illinois. This 150-acre disposal area has approximately three million cubic yards of wastewater sludge containing asbestos and other toxins. The site is bordered by Lake Michigan and Illinois Beach State Park. Studies have indicated that airborne asbestos is the greatest potential risk. Johns-Manville ceased operations at the site in 1998. Asbestos hazards are still being addressed.
Between 1974 and the early 1990s, the former W.R. Grace & Company facility in West Chicago processed more than 273,000 tons of asbestos-containing vermiculite shipped from Libby, Montana. Those who worked at the plant were exposed to hazardous levels of asbestos fibers and are at high risk of developing diseases related to asbestos exposure. W.R. Grace stopped operations at the West Chicago plant in 1996. In 2003, the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry reported tests conducted by the EPA detected trace amounts of Libby asbestos in the soil surrounding the plant.
Many of Illinois’s schools and administrative buildings were constructed with asbestos. Depending on when the asbestos risk was discovered and how each facility handled the problem, teachers and other employees or students who attended these schools may be at risk for an asbestos-related disease like mesothelioma. As these buildings age, the risk for asbestos exposure increases and old asbestos products present the hazard of releasing fibers into the air.
Anyone who attended the following school locations may be at risk for an asbestos-related disease:
In 1989, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) received a request from the Allied Industrial Workers of America International Union, Local 837, to evaluate asbestos hazards at A.E. Staley Manufacturing Company's facility. Although the company's medical monitoring program did not detail any concern for asbestos-related diseases, the union was worried about potential weaknesses in their reporting because medical testing outside the company's medical monitoring program suggested otherwise. For instance, several cases of asbestosis were reported and one employee died from pleural mesothelioma. These findings led the union to ask for assistance from NIOSH in evaluating the effectiveness of Staley Manufacturing Company's monitoring program.
Madison County, Illinois, is one of the nation's leading jurisdictions for class action lawsuits and asbestos litigation. In the early 2000s, the county took steps to enable its judicial system to process many asbestos cases over a short span of time. One major benefit for mesothelioma patients is a fast-track filing process for the terminally ill. Most claimants with mesothelioma can have their case moved from filing to trial within six months, while it may take years in other jurisdictions. Despite the high volume of cases passing through Madison County, the vast majority of claims are settled out of court before going to trial.
In 2011, an Illinois jury awarded $1.5 million to the wife of Richard Campbell, a former U.S. Steel employee who died of mesothelioma in 2009. Campbell worked at the company's South Works plant in Chicago, where he performed electrical maintenance work and operated a boom truck from 1955 to 1985. His job duties required him to perform tasks that released asbestos from electrical wires and cables, including repairing industrial wire, replacing burnt cables and pulling cables through pipe conduits.
Campbell claimed that cutting and stripping the wires and cables released so much asbestos that he had to use a coal shovel to collect and dispose of the toxic dust at the end of each work day. He and his wife filed a claim against Ericsson, Inc., which in 1980 acquired the company that originally manufactured and sold the asbestos-containing wires and cables used at the U.S. Steel plant in Chicago. Ericsson appealed from the jury's verdict, but the Appellate Court of Illinois affirmed the decision.
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