If you made a journey to Pittsburgh any time during the first three-quarters of the 20th century, you would have been greeted with a skyline of smoke stacks and other industrial towers, all indicative of the vast number of steel plants that operated within the city and in the towns that bordered it. All of those mills employed hundreds of area workers, each fiercely loyal to the mill they called their home-away-from-home.
One of the oldest and busiest mills in the city – the one industry professionals say provided the most competition for giant Carnegie Steel Corporation – was Jones and Laughlin Steel, better known as simply “J & L”.
Originally founded in 1852 as the American Iron Company, it become Jones and Laughlin in 1861 when James Laughlin bought an interest in the company from one of the original founders. The company began the production of steel in 1886.
J & L operated quite a sizeable plant. By the end of World War II, the company’s facilities were immense, spanning both sides of the Monongahela River and situated along the Ohio as well. Every day, generations of workers made their way to the plant’s many divisions, intent on performing their duties, which may have included:
• Electrical technician
Over the years, the company became known for its quality product. The steel produced there built many U.S. bridges and other structures. Indeed, the mid-20th century was a proud time for the steel industry.
But soon, it became apparent that while J & L workers received a good salary and great benefits, they were facing a silent killer that would eventually claim many who worked there. That’s because J & L employees were regularly exposed to dangerous asbestos.
Inside a steel mill like Jones and Laughlin, asbestos-containing materials were used for a number of reasons. First of all, they were good heat conductors, so the use of these products helped prevent fires and burns. Secondly, asbestos added durability to products so that they lasted longer. Using asbestos materials was certainly an advantage. At least, it seemed that way.
However, it was apparent from the 1920s and onward that asbestos was destroying the health of those who worked with it regularly, including steel workers. Already, in the early decades of the 20th century, company doctors were reporting the presence of lung diseases in those who were exposed to asbestos’ tiny sharp fibers. Often, these reports were kept secret by management and, hence, asbestos use continued until the late 1970s, when the government finally stepped in with rules governing its use. (Though it’s never been banned in the U.S.)
Many former J & L employees have already succumbed to mesothelioma or some other form of cancer that may have been caused by asbestos exposure. Some, specifically those who worked there in the company’s later years, are just now being diagnosed. This is because of mesothelioma’s long latency period, which causes diagnosis to be delayed up to 40-50 years. By that time, it’s usually too late to address the disease successfully.
If you were employed by J & L Steel, you may know fellow employees who died of mesothelioma. Perhaps you are battling the disease at this time. If that’s the case, know that you have options when it comes to filing suit against Pittsburgh asbestos manufacturers for this negligent exposure. For more information on your legal rights, contact our Pittsburgh mesothelioma attorney to begin investigating the options available to you and/or your family.