Written by Michelle Whitmer | Scientifically Reviewed By Arti Shukla, Ph.D. | Edited By Walter Pacheco | Last Update: March 1, 2024

Quick Facts About Asbestos in Iowa
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    Ranking in Deaths:
    29th
  • grey lungs icon
    Mesothelioma Deaths:
    529
  • silhouette of a head with three dots
    Asbestosis Deaths:
    14
  • grey triangle warning sign icon next to graph
    Total Deaths:
    543

In addition to occupational exposure, residents face risks from natural disasters. Tornadoes and floods have plagued the state in recent years and have caused massive damage.

Natural disasters in a state with heavy manufacturing can lead to asbestos exposure. Manufacturing operations used asbestos to make products. Construction of both public and private buildings used asbestos-containing materials. Natural disasters can damage these materials and release fibers into the air.

For those affected by asbestos exposure in the state, Iowa has cancer centers with doctors who treat mesothelioma. Exposure to asbestos is the primary cause of mesothelioma.

Occupations and Environmental Areas at Risk in Iowa

The following locations in Iowa have been a source of asbestos exposure for state residents.

Fort Dodge

The city of Fort Dodge has a mining and industrial history. It has a major focus on mining, manufacturing and construction. The city is home to many companies that use asbestos in the manufacturing of their products.

Industrial workers often remain within similar sectors throughout their careers. This increases the chances of harm from long-term asbestos exposure.

The city’s economy is notable for its focus on limestone mining, drywall manufacturing, gypsum mining and trucking. All of these sectors use asbestos-containing products.

The gypsum industry thrives in Fort Dodge. United States Gypsum Company, Celotex Corporation, Georgia Pacific Corporation and National Gypsum Company have gypsum operations in Fort Dodge.

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Iowa City

Iowa City has seen its share of hazardous threats, from tornadoes to massive flooding. These natural disasters may have put residents in danger to asbestos exposure.

According to some experts, a 2008 flood was the worst natural disaster in the state’s history. It demolished countless older homes and building structures, many of which contained asbestos.

This left residents and public officials in the position to clean up a dangerous mess. Public health officials stated one of the biggest concerns for asbestos occurred when the flood waters receded. The fibers left behind in the flood’s wake dried and become airborne, increasing the risk of exposure.

At-Risk Occupations in Iowa

The focus on manufacturing and industrial work puts specific occupations at risk of asbestos exposure. Power plant workers are one of the most notable occupations at risk. Many of the materials they work with contain asbestos.

Family members are also at risk of secondary exposure. It happens when workers bring home asbestos fibers on their clothing or skin.

This occurred in the case of a power plant worker’s wife who died after washing asbestos-contaminated clothing day after day. Her husband claimed that the power plant was responsible.

Power plants in Iowa where asbestos exposure may have occurred:

  • Alliant Energy Corporation
  • Duane Arnold Alliant Energy
  • Helix Associates Inc.
  • Interstate Power and Light
  • Iowa Light & Power
  • Iowa Power and Light
  • MidAmerican Energy Company
  • Sioux City Coal and Gas
  • Storm Lake Power Plant
  • Tipton Power Plant

Construction workers, metal workers and industrial workers also face asbestos exposure. Handling asbestos-containing products increases the chance of developing mesothelioma.

Penalties for Violating Removal Laws

In December 2021, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources issued fines for improper asbestos removal. It took place at Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. A derecho caused damage to asbestos-containing tiles. A contractor removed without taking asbestos safety precautions. The school paid a fine of $4,500 and the contractor paid $6,500.

In 2013, a company was fined $80,000 for violating asbestos removal laws during the demolition of a truck stop in Williamsburg, Iowa. The company, Jai Santoshi Ma Inc., failed to check for asbestos prior to demolition and notify the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Other violations included burying asbestos-contaminated waste on the job site. It also disposed of contaminated debris in a landfill without proper labeling. It also left contaminated debris in open air for weeks without wetting it to prevent exposure.

A similar set of violations transpired a year earlier in Bettendorf, Iowa. A $35,000 fine was issued to Rockingham-Lunex Co. It failed to inspect for asbestos before demolishing two Bettendorf buildings in 2011. Other violations included failure to remove asbestos before demolition. They failed to hire a licensed asbestos removal contractor to abate the asbestos. Following the notice of violation, the company disposed of the remaining contaminated debris.

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