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January 31, 2017

Asbestos Exposure At Weirton Steel

A brief history

Weirton Steel, formerly known as National Steel aka International Steel Group (ISGI) was a nationally known steel company that dominated parts of West Virginia. The steel mill thrived throughout the 20th century and still exists as a major supplier today, though under a different name. Not only did the mill provide a steady income for many families in the area, it also helped the entire community as a whole because it was the largest employer in West Virginia, the largest taxpayer and the world’s largest tin plate producer.  With numerous mills in operation, the town became centralized around the enterprise and successful steel mills flourished in the surrounding areas of West Virginia and Ohio.

By the late 1920s, Weirton Steel continued to expand, eventually merging with Great Lakes Steel (in the Great Lakes region) and Hanna Iron Ore Company to form National Steel. The result of this merger made Weirton Steel a subsidiary to National Steel which led to National Steel becoming one of the largest steelmakers in the country. Steel production began to decline post- WWII and soon National Steel began to diversify their assets, resulting in a plan that did not include Weirton Steel. Rather than shutting down the Weirton Steel plant, workers came together under the Employee Stock Ownership Plan. This program allows for workers to have stock ownership in their own company, and in 1984, ownership was officially transferred to the employees. For the next decade or so, Weirton Steel remained profitable. However, by the 1990s Weirton Steel was once again declining and in 2003 it filed for bankruptcy. International Steel Group bought Weirton Steel and then sold it to ArcelorMittal, and that is where it is today.

 

Asbestos exposure

The equipment used at Weirton Steel would be extremely hot during its use. To help combat over-heating and to keep the machines cool and working properly, the machines were lined with asbestos insulation. Some of the equipment that contained asbestos material includes blast furnaces, coke ovens, basic oxygen furnaces, continuous rolling mills, electric arc furnaces, and open hearth furnaces. In addition, other commonly used items such as valves, pumps, aprons, mitts, gaskets and packing contained asbestos which became airborne and then caused cancer many years later. The miles and miles of steam lines and hot water lines were insulated with asbestos which would flake off and become airborne with age and from the vibrations of the machinery in the mill.  Many of the positions within the steel mill allowed for extreme levels of asbestos exposure among the workers, which when inhaled, can cause many illnesses and cancer including mesotheliomalung cancercolon and colo-rectal cancers, laryngeal cancer, and asbestosis. Some of the workers were exposed to asbestos particles more than others; depending on department and job duties. There is no known safe level of asbestos exposure, but greater exposure—both in duration and amounts—has been linked with greater risk of developing asbestos-related disease.

If you worked at Weirton Steel (fka National Steel aka ISGI) in Weirton WV, and have developed mesothelioma, lung cancer, colon cancer, rectal cancer or another asbestos cancer, contact us today for a FREE, no obligation consultation: 1-800-COMPLEX.

 

Sources:

David T. Javersak, “Weirton Steel,” The West Virginia Encyclopedia (December 2, 2012). [Link]

“Weirton Steel Corporation History,” Funding Universe, International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 26. St. James Press, (1999). [Link]

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