Ohio Counties Top in Country for Mesothelioma Cases
Asbestos exposure certainly isn’t a problem of the past. That’s especially true in Ohio, where more than 2,000 individuals have died of mesothelioma – caused by exposure to the toxin – since the turn of the 21st century.
And, reports the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), two of the state’s counties rank among the top 50 in the country for death rates due to asbestos exposure.
Jefferson and Washington Counties appear on that ominous list of U. S. counties with the highest age-adjusted mesothelioma death rates in the state of Ohio, measured from 2000 to 2009, says the CDC.
Jefferson County, in the east-central portion of the state and includes the city of Steubenville. The area was largely defined by the steel industry for decades and is a neighbor of Weirton, West Virginia, well-known for its steel works.
Neighboring Washington County residents also largely made their living from steel, until the domestic steel industry dwindled in the latter decades of the 20th century.
Now, the economy of both areas is depressed.
Still, despite the fact that steel production hasn’t been a major player in the economies of Jefferson and Washington Counties for quite some time, those who worked in steel mills 30, 40, or even 50 years ago are still being diagnosed with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.
That’s because these diseases often take decades to appear and very often are found in individuals who are now in their 70s or 80s but who spent their working years in the steel mills of Ohio and those of the surrounding Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area, which also includes parts of both Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Prior to the 1980s, steel workers faced asbestos hazards on a daily basis. Many of the products used in the nation’s steel mills included asbestos and were often used to insulate the high temperature equipment found at the mills.
Nearly anyone working at the mills could be exposed, of course, but the occupations that are most often affected include:
- Pipe fitters
- Motor inspectors
Asbestos materials insulated such items as boilers, tanks, rolling mills, ovens, steam pipes, hot blast stoves, furnaces, and more.
The toxic materials could also be found in numerous construction products inside a mill, including floor and ceiling tiles, refractory bricks, asbestos blankets, asbestos ropes, and liner boards.
Some employees of the steel mills even wore asbestos-containing protective clothing such as aprons, lab coats, coveralls, gloves, and even masks.
The material was literally everywhere!
It’s no wonder those two Ohio counties are facing such high rates of mesothelioma cases today and, experts say, it’s likely that the number of cases will keep climbing, at least for a few more years.
As long as there’s still exposure, proponents of banning asbestos remind us, the disease will never be eradicated.