Fire at Old Mill

Fire at Old Mill Could Mean Danger for Oregon Community

The old Whitsell Mill in Saginaw, Oregon recently burned to the ground in a massive fire that local environmental officials say could cause huge headaches for locals, including exposure to toxic asbestos debris that could be found in the ash that remains after the blaze.

exposure to toxic asbestos debrisThough the Lane Regional Air Protection Agency says they have collected ash samples that tested negative for asbestos debris, the agency notes that they can’t be sure that all the ash is safe, especially since there was likely an abundant amount of asbestos materials inside the mill, which manufactured wood products.

They’ve warned residents who are south or southwest of the mill, which puts them in the direct line of any lingering smoke, to use caution when outside and certainly when handling any debris from the fire.

“It’s an older building, and we want to be cautious,” said Jo Niehaus of the Lane Regional Air Protection Agency. “There could be asbestos in some of the debris.

That’s why we went ahead and tested some of the samples. We are really happy to see the samples came back negative, but at the same time, we can’t be 100 percent sure that 100 percent of the materials are free from asbestos.”

Niehaus is right to be cautious and to warn area residents of potential dangers. Mill workers were long exposed to asbestos products while on the job, including items such as pipe insulation, gaskets, ovens, tiles, and more.

Asbestos was used in an abundance of products that were regularly used inside mills and other manufacturing plants because asbestos is highly heat resistant and its presence meant that fires were less likely to occur.

However, the use of asbestos products also meant that mill workers were being exposed to the toxin on a daily basis, which put mill workers high on the list of those tradesmen likely to develop asbestosis, mesothelioma, or other related diseases.

Today, many are fighting for their rights as victims of mill owners who knew asbestos was harming workers but continued its use anyway.