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Former workers at insulation plant may have handled asbestos

After an inspection of a former insulation manufacturing site turned up asbestos, authorities are trying to find former employees to inform them of the discovery. The manufacturer was in operation for decades. During that time, a number of employees were exposed to the harmful substance. Former employees who developed cancer as a result of their employment at the company may decide to file a worker's compensation claim against the company.

The asbestos was found in contaminated soil. Environmental Protection Agency contractors have started the complex removal process. They will wrap 5,000 cubic yards of the soil in plastic before loading it onto a truck that will dispose of it at a nearby landfill.

The company made fireproof insulation, which commonly contained asbestos until the 1980s. The product is called vermiculite, and was sold under a number of different brand names. The manufacturing plants received contaminated minerals that were mined from a local mine that has since been closed. There were two manufacturing sites where employees could have been exposed. Health officials say that the employees who were most at risk of exposure were the ones who loaded and unloaded the materials from the mine.

County officials are attempting to locate former employees to inform them about the potential danger to their health. While it may be too late for some workers who developed mesothelioma or asbestosis and have since died, others may be able to seek an early diagnosis. With early detection, a person with these cancers can live longer than those who are diagnosed later.

Asbestos is quite harmful when airborne. When a product that contains asbestos is disturbed, the toxic fibers can be ingested by unsuspecting people. Otherwise, it is said asbestos looks like small gray or brown bark chips or ash that can be easily recognizable.

Source: Utility Products, "Soil With Asbestos Removed; Cleanup Is at Ex-Silico Plant," Olivier Uyttebrouck, Jan. 19, 2012

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