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Abandoned flour mill poses asbestos hazard for neighborhood

Most persons in North Carolina easily associate certain dustries with the hazard of asbestos exposure. The wide-spread use of asbestos as an insulating material in dustrial buildings is common knowledge. So is the use of asbestos fibers for automotive brakes and clutches. But flour milling? This industry would appear at first glance to be among the least likely sources of asbestos fibers, but an abandoned flour mill in southern Illinois has become the center of an increasing controversy solely because it contains a great many asbestos-containing products.

The mill was built by the Pillsbury Company, and an entire neighborhood grew up around the plant, ultimately earning the name "Pillsbury Mills." Pillsbury sold the plan to Cargill in the 1990s, and Cargill finally closed the plant in 2001 due to a declining market for the plant's output. The plant has remained locked and shuttered ever since, with razor wire atop the chain link fence that surrounds the plant.

The current residents of the Pillsbury Mill neighborhood are worried about the asbestos that remains in the old mill. A number of former workers in the plant have died from asbestos-related diseases. Last August, a demolition contractor was prevented from beginning work because the state attorney general obtained an injunction based on the allegation that no effort was being made to identify and contain the asbestos that remains in the mill. The fate of the plant remains in limbo while the court case drags on.

This case shows once again that asbestos is still a significant environmental health hazard. Abandoned industrial plants are likely to contain a large number of asbestos-containing products, such as pipe insulation, roof shingles, and floor tile. Persons who have lived or currently live near such facilities should pay special attention to the risk of contracting a disease related to asbestos, such as lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis. Anyone who believes he or she may have been exposed to asbestos fibers should obtain a competent medical examination. If the exam finds any of these diseases, a consultation with a lawyer who specializes in pursuing such claims can provide a helpful estimate of the likelihood of recovering damages for medical expenses, lost income and pain and suffering.

Source: WAND-TV, "I-TEAM: Pillsbury Mills Creates Asbestos Worries," Doug Wolfe, Feb. 25, 2016

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