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The scent of caution

shipyard machine shop.jpeg

A machine shop has a particular smell. It is a mix of burning steel, oil and ozone from the circuits that run the oldest machines. For many, it is an unpleasant smell, but for machinists, mechanics and many of the Ohioans who work in manufacturing, it's like coming home. It may also be dangerous.

According to the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, steel-workers in Cleveland are at an increased risk of exposure to asbestos. While the steel industry is part of the beating heart of the Ohio economy and has been for a long time, the materials used in building the plants are harmful. That comforting smell which many associate with their livelihood may contain particles that cause mesothelioma, a type of cancer that can affect the lungs. The older the building is, the worse the situation may be.

The US government is not doing enough to help with asbestos

The dangers of asbestos in buildings is well-known now, however, the material was a key component in construction for a long time. Older homes and factories all over the U.S. often have it incorporated in their construction in a manner that is difficult to remove.To protect homeowners and workers, regulations are being discussed to restrict the import and use of asbestos in further construction.

The regulations stop, however, at doing anything with the asbestos already in use. Currently, there are no plans to push for removing the nearly 8.1 million metric tons of asbestos products used in the last 40 or so years. Those in power consider requiring removal to be too expensive in relation to the possible risks, but is there really a price tag to be placed on the safety of workers?

What to do

Taking action is an important step. If you believe you or a family member suffered from exposure to asbestos at work you should:

  • Determine if construction of your workplace happened during a period where asbestos was widely used.
  • If it was built during that time, seek medical evaluation and seek treatment accordingly.
  • Then consider calling your representatives in state and federal government to demand new regulations and worker protections.

The bottom line is that you have a right to be healthy at work. Having an employer disregard your safety and health for its bottom line is a violation that you do not have to take.

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