Metal beams were usually coated with asbestos-laden insulation in order to prevent the structure from igniting too easily in case of fire. If these beams needed inspection or maintenance, the insulation would get removed because of this process and then be reapplied. This also resulted in poisonous asbestos particles to be released into the environment, in which ironworkers breathed.
Second-hand exposure could have taken place when the ironworker would bring home asbestos dust on clothes, shoes, and hair.
The people working in foundries that have been exposed to asbestos for long periods of time, may have developed serious and fatal diseases like mesothelioma, other forms of cancer or lung-related illnesses.
Ironworkers also served in the military, under ratings such as aviation chief metalsmith. Since they would directly handle asbestos products, aviation chief metalsmiths have a moderate to high risk of developing awful diseases today. They were responsible for crafting metal items for the military, a process which would often require extreme heat, so aviation chief metalsmiths had to protect themselves from the fire by wearing asbestos equipment such as aprons and gloves. Over time, their protective gear would deteriorate, which only released more asbestos fibers in the air while they were moving.
Relevant job titles
- crane operator
- flame cutter
- saw operator
- aviation chief metalsmith