Asbestos exposure continues to be a major threat for Ohio residents, ranking the state among the top 10 for asbestos-related deaths. Individuals are at a higher risk for asbestos-related diseases if they worked in factories or with high-heat machinery.Find Top Doctors in Ohio
ranking in U.S. for mesothelioma & asbestosis deaths
Ohio has a long history as a center of American manufacturing, and the state has hosted the corporate headquarters of several major players in the asbestos industry.
Cincinnati had the Philip Carey Manufacturing Corporation, which mined asbestos for use in a variety of insulation products. In Cleveland, there is the North American Refractories Company, commonly known as NARCO, which specialized in manufacturing heat- and friction-resistant materials.
Medina has the headquarters of Republic Powdered Metals, which acquired Reardon Company’s line of Bondex-brand products and subsequently the liability for the asbestos in those products.
The Dana Corporation was created in Toledo, and its products included asbestos-containing brake pads, gaskets and seals. Toledo is also home to the Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corporation, once a major producer of asbestos-containing insulation, while fellow insulation manufacturer Owens-Illinois Inc. is headquartered in Perrysburg.
Residents who suspect they’ve been exposed to asbestos have resources at their disposal. Government-approved educational programs provide important asbestos-related information to the public, and Ohio is home to the original Cleveland Clinic, now one of the top cancer centers in the country. Mesothelioma patients and their families in Ohio may also have legal options to cover medical costs.
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Manufacturers used asbestos as an additive to make materials more durable and heat resistant. However, workers who regularly inhaled asbestos dust created by industrial processes are at an elevated risk for life-threatening diseases such as asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer.
The Scotts Company and other Ohio vermiculite-processing plants received the raw mineral from Libby, Montana. Vermiculite from Libby often contains extremely toxic tremolite asbestos, which is released during processing and poses a health hazard to workers and those living in the vicinity.
Workers may have been exposed to asbestos at metal works such as those run by Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel, AK Steel Holding Corporation and LTV Steel, all of which had operations in Ohio. Similar risks apply to manufacturers of car parts and appliances, such as employees of Ohio Cast Products.
Ohio is a leading producer of rubber, plastics and other chemicals. The high-temperature pipes and refining equipment involved in chemical production require a significant amount of insulation and fireproofing, which was historically manufactured with asbestos.
Asbestos insulation was also installed in power plants throughout Ohio, and asbestos cement was used in many types of infrastructure.
Construction tradesmen have always carried a high risk of asbestos exposure because of the ubiquitous use of the toxic mineral in building materials for most of the 20th century. Asbestos-containing materials remain in many old buildings in Ohio, endangering present day workers as well as residents and students performing renovation without proper protection.
Ohio Cast Products manufactured iron car parts in Canton until its bankruptcy in 2004. The site was abandoned until 2008, when a fire destroyed significant portions of the facility.
During an official inspection, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials found asbestos and other hazards among the debris. The EPA labeled the former Ohio Cast Products facility as a Superfund site and began immediate cleanup. Although the cleanup was completed within a few years, former employees at Ohio Cast Products may have been exposed to asbestos, some as recently as 2004.
Between 1967 and 1980, the Scotts Company’s Marysville facility received and processed 430,000 tons of asbestos-contaminated vermiculite from Libby, Montana, making it the largest U.S. consumer of the ore in the nation.
Vermiculite from Libby is notorious for containing harmful asbestos fibers. Medical studies conducted on the workers noted 26 percent of the company’s employees had asbestos-related lung scarring or pleural plaques.
The EPA feared local residents were also at risk of asbestos exposure. People living in the area before 1980 may have been incidentally exposed to asbestos in the air near the plant. However, soil samples from 2000 were negative for asbestos contamination and the area was declared safe.
In 2004 and again in 2007, employees at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland contacted the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to request an inspection of buildings 500 and 501.
After inspecting the facilities, NIOSH found the majority of asbestos had been removed from the buildings during abatement projects and the remaining asbestos posed minimal to no threat to current employees. The inspection summary states, however, that former employees may have been exposed to asbestos prior to major abatement projects.
Businesses and individuals in the U.S. must adhere to the Clean Air Act, a federal law passed in 1963 to protect the public from hazardous or toxic air pollutants. In addition, Ohio’s state regulations for preventing asbestos contamination during demolition and renovation are consistent with the EPA’s National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP).
There have been several cases in Ohio where violations to the Clean Air Act and other EPA laws have resulted in serious penalties. The most prominent case involves the improper demolition of the former Stark Ceramics facility in Canton.
Russell Stewart, the owner and operator of a company called Chemstruction, was ordered to halt the demolition work when inspectors found asbestos-containing panels at the site that required a cleanup plan. Stewart continued the demolition, however, causing the asbestos materials to be pulverized into powder that could easily pollute the air and surrounding environment.
State and federal agencies partnered to prosecute Stewart, resulting in a 21-month prison sentence and a fine of $876,228.
In 2013, an Ohio jury awarded $27.5 million to John Panza and his wife. As a child, Panza had been exposed to asbestos fibers on the work clothes of his father, who had worked at the Eaton Airflex brake company in close proximity to asbestos-laced brake pads from National Friction Products Corp.
Panza was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2012. Later that year, he filed a lawsuit against multiple defendants, including Kelsey-Hayes Co., National Friction’s successor.
The award is currently the largest mesothelioma verdict in Ohio history. It included $515,000 to Panza for economic damages, $12 million in noneconomic damages and $15 million for his wife’s loss of consortium claim.
The Ohio judicial system is designed to efficiently handle asbestos claims as they are filed. Regulations are in place to streamline the process, unify complaints and classify case types and demands. Ohio courts also regulate who is allowed to file asbestos claims.
In the past, Ohio courts were flooded with claims filed by people with minimal exposure to asbestos and little to no evidence of asbestos-related disease. To help ensure actual victims have access to timely compensation, Ohio passed House Bill 292, which requires claimants to meet specific medical criteria to prove they were actually harmed by asbestos.
At the same time, House Bill 292 suspended the statute of limitations for asbestos cases, allowing asbestos-exposed people to file lawsuits in the future if they do get sick.
There are many local resources for cancer patients in Ohio. Financial assistance is available through the Stephen A. Comunale, Jr. Family Cancer Foundation. Free support programs and services are provided by the Ohio branch of the Cancer Support Community as well as an organization called the Gathering Place. The American Cancer Society and American Lung Association also sponsor various local events and programs in Ohio.
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Matt Mauney is an award-winning journalist with nearly a decade of professional writing experience. He joined Asbestos.com in 2016, and he spends much of his time reading, analyzing and reporting on mesothelioma research articles to ensure people in the mesothelioma community know the latest medical advancements. Prior to joining Asbestos.com, Matt was a reporter at the Orlando Sentinel. Matt also edits some of the pages on the website. He also holds a certificate in health writing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read More