Asbestos in Rhode Island

As the smallest U.S. state, Rhode Island is not historically known as a hotspot for asbestos exposure. A naturally occurring crocidolite asbestos deposit is found in Cumberland near the northeast state line, but it was never mined. Rhode Island's economy is largely focused on healthcare and education. Manufacturing, which is the industry most often associated with asbestos exposure, is the state's third-largest industry. In terms of manufacturing, Rhode Island is generally noted for costume jewelry, fabricated metal products, machinery, electrical equipment and some shipbuilding.

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Rhode Island

ranking in U.S. for mesothelioma & asbestosis deaths

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This page features: 11 cited research articles

Rhode Island is ranked 38th in the nation for total asbestos-related deaths. Between 1999 and 2013, 214 asbestos-related deaths were recorded. For mesothelioma, a rare cancer most often attributed to asbestos exposure, 172 deaths were documented. Mesothelioma patients in Rhode Island can find specialists that study and treat this rare cancer in nearby Massachusetts at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Notable exposure locations throughout the state include schools, manufacturing sites and shipyards. Power generation plants and chemical plants in operation before the 1980s were also a likely source for asbestos exposure. Although asbestos-related deaths in Rhode Island rank relatively low in comparison to national statistics, the state still strictly regulates asbestos removal to prevent future exposure.

Occupations and Environmental Areas at Risk

Rhode Island was once one of the leaders in textile production. This particular industry has a history involving asbestos exposure because asbestos was one of the minerals commonly used in commercial cloth and fabrics. Asbestos was also regularly found in the industrial equipment used in textile factories, primarily for fireproofing. While the textile industry remains part of the state’s economy, most textile factories relocated to the southern U.S. after the Great Depression. The Rhode Island Textile Company has been producing textiles in the state since 1913, and was operational throughout the peak decades when asbestos use was at its highest.

Numerous jobsites and buildings throughout Rhode Island have been a source for asbestos exposure. For example, the Department of Education Administrative Building (known as the Roger Williams Building) in Providence contained 30 and 50 percent chrysotile asbestos in the insulation surrounding pipes and furnaces. On August 7, 1991, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health was asked by the Professional Employees Union to conduct a Health Hazard Evaluation on the building. The Department of Education first moved into the building in 1981.

Air samples in the furnace room indicated the presence of airborne asbestos. Friable asbestos was also located along the boilers, furnaces and steam pipes that ran around the walls and basement ceiling. Employees had to walk through these areas to reach the parking area. At the time of the evaluation, employees were already experiencing respiratory problems.

Rhode Island Mesothelioma &
Asbestosis Deaths, 1999-2013

  • 172 Mesothelioma Deaths
  • 42 Asbestosis Deaths
  • 214 Total Deaths

Treatment Centers near Rhode Island

VA Boston Healthcare System

VA Boston Healthcare System

1400 VFW Parkway West Roxbury, MA 02132

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

450 Brookline Avenue, Boston, MA, 02215

Massachusetts General Hospital

Massachusetts General Hospital

55 Fruit Street, Cox 2, Boston, MA 02114

NYU Langone Medical Center

NYU Langone Medical Center

550 First Ave. New York, NY 10016 Mesothelioma Guide

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Jobsites with Known Asbestos Exposure:


Shipyards throughout the U.S. have been major sources of asbestos exposure since the 1930s. Thousands of asbestos-containing materials were used to construct ships, and workers were unaware of the hazards associated with asbestos. Anyone who built ships or served on them between the 1930s and 1970s were likely to experience some degree of asbestos exposure.

Shipyards in Rhode Island that were a Source of Asbestos Exposure for Workers

Clean Air Act Violation

In 2005, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fined a Johnston, Rhode Island, company $256,320 for violations of the Clean Air Act. Between 2004 and 2005, the Bilray Demolition Company, Inc. demolished buildings that used to house the Seaboard Foundry. The fine occurred after the EPA alleged the company failed to follow asbestos removal regulations.

Asbestos in Rhode Island Schools

Three schools in Providence, Rhode Island, were a source for asbestos exposure in 1990. The schools included Winsor Hill, Brown Avenue and Sarah Dyer Barnes. More than 600 students, teachers and administrators between the three schools may have been exposed to asbestos for as long as one year. The suspected exposure came from old asbestos-containing vinyl tiles that were ripped up during the summer of 1990. The Rhode Island Department of Health closed the schools until asbestos issues were resolved.

There are no recent reports of lawsuits related to asbestos exposure in Rhode Island schools. However, the state Department of Health completed a statewide survey in 1978 that uncovered major asbestos health risks in several schools. A published report of the findings, titled Asbestos Hazard Evaluation in Rhode Island Schools, describes four schools where spray-on asbestos contaminated classrooms, corridor ceilings and a gymnasium. Spray-on asbestos, a popular insulation material from the 1950s to the early 1970s, was found in 24 of the 326 schools that participated in the survey.

Asbestos Litigation in Rhode Island

In a 2007 case involving a former Pawtucket, Rhode Island, mechanic, a jury awarded a $2 million verdict to Roland Leo Grenier for his mesothelioma diagnosis. Grenier worked as an automotive mechanic for 38 years and specialized in brake and clutch repairs. The lawsuit alleged General Motors and Ford incorporated asbestos into parts Grenier worked with on a regular basis. The jury attributed 70 percent of the liability to General Motors and 16 percent to Ford. The remaining 14 percent was distributed to seven other companies sued in the case.

Regulations for Managing Asbestos

Rhode Island’s Asbestos Control Program works to protect the public from asbestos exposure. The program is responsible for making sure the provisions of the Rhode Island Rules and Regulations for Asbestos Control are followed. In addition, the Rhode Island Asbestos Act defines schools as high-priority buildings when asbestos is involved. Although regulations do not require asbestos removal from schools, asbestos-containing materials must be identified and maintained. This applies to other public buildings as well.

Many jobsites in Rhode Island used products that may have exposed workers to asbestos. While the state has taken steps to limit asbestos exposure and to ensure safe handling of asbestos in the future, asbestos-related diseases remain a concern because of the long latency period between the initial exposure and the onset of symptoms.

Asbestos Violations

To protect workers and the public from harmful exposures, the EPA and the Rhode Island Department of Health enforce strict regulations on any activities involving asbestos. If asbestos work is done unsafely, or completed by someone who is not certified, large fines or jail time may result.

Recent fines for asbestos offenses

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Matt Mauney, Content Writer at

Matt Mauney is an award-winning journalist with nearly a decade of professional writing experience. He joined 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, 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

Last Modified December 20, 2017
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  2. State of Rhode Island Department of Health. Indoor Air Quality: Asbestos Control Program. : Retrieved from:
  3. EPA Complaint Against Rhode Island Flooring Contractor Seeks $70,535 Penalty for Violations Related to Its Handling of Asbestos Flooring at Church Building. (Mar. 2005) : Retrieved from:,risk
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  6. Supreme Court of the State of Delaware. (2007). General Motors Corporation and Ford Motor Company. : Retrieved from:
  7. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2010, January 13). Asbestos Violation at Newport Naval Station Result in Fines. Retrieved from:!opendocument
  8. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2010, July 26). Rhode Island Airport Corp. and Contractors Fined for Reporting Violations at TF Green Airport. Retrieved from:!OpenDocument
  9. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2008, October 6). Rhode Island Demolition Company Faces Fines for Clean Air Violations. Retrieved from:!OpenDocument
  10. Mulvaney, K. (2013, October 19). Coventry Wrecking Company Fined $10,000 for Lying about Asbestos Inspection. Retrieved from:
  11. Faich, G. (1980, February). Asbestos Hazard Evaluation in Rhode Island Schools. Retrieved from:
  12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. (2015, January). Underlying Cause of Death 1999-2013 on CDC WONDER Online Database. Retrieved from:
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