The similarities are unsettling. No matter where you go in the world, if there were industrial plants in place from turn of the previous century to the 1980s, the story seems to have been the same.
A large plant is seen as a valuable employer. Men go to work at the plant every day, and come home covered in dust. They are greeted by their children and receive happy hugs. Their wives, perhaps disapprovingly, look at their work clothes and instruct them to change out their dirty overalls, so they can launder them.
The children play near the plant, and walk daily to and from school, passing by piles of the material used in the plant. They may even play in piles of the material, finding it fun to toss the snow-like substance. Only it wasn’t snow, it was asbestos.
Last week we discussed the deadly legacy from a plant in Pennsylvania. It could have been in Canada, England or Australia, as the latest story is from Melbourne. A report in a local newspaper found that “at least 16 people who grew up within one kilometer of the factory have died from diseases linked to asbestos exposure, with another eight diagnosed with similar diseases.”
As we often caution, asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma are not restricted to 80-year-old industrial workers. The youngest man in this case was only 42, meaning he would have been exposed to asbestos as a young child, riding past the plant on his way to school.
Sometimes the wives of the workers fall ill from having inhaled asbestos dust from their husbands work clothes or their children as they gave them hugs.
Like many industrial plants during that time, where often located near residences, and as many as 4,000 people may have lived in the vicinity.
The long reach of asbestos is likely to find more victims. The authorities have promised to investigate, but for some, it is far too late, and their families are left to find solace in a lawsuit.
Lawyersandsettlements.com, “Asbestos-Related Deaths Linked to ‘Factory of Death’,” Heidi Turner, October 25, 2014