Addy, Washington was originally founded by a Hudson Bay Company employee in the 1850s. It remained a quiet trade village for more than one hundred years. In 1975, the Alcoa Aluminum company built a magnesium smelter in the area. Because of the remote nature of the area, and the general lack of giant industries, the plant became the largest employer in the county. It ceased operation twenty six years later in 2001. The financial impact was notably extreme for locals. Addy is currently home to only a few businesses and less then five hundred permanent residents. The town of Addy is not the only entity dealing with the consequences of Alcoa’s choices – employees exposed to asbestos at the plant are also feeling the legacy.
Alcoa Aluminum and Asbestos Exposure
Aluminum processing requires incredible amounts of heat. Industrial heating elements have to dissipate that heat in order to remain functional. Asbestos materials, dangerous as they are, are the go-to insulation and dissipation devices used. If asbestos didn’t wear out under extreme heat, there would be a much reduced risk. Unfortunately, as asbestos ages, it becomes brittle and prone to shedding. This is a significant health risk, both because of the danger of the fibers and the reduced efficacy of the insulator. The difficulty comes in replacing asbestos – often plants would only cease operations for brief periods, tearing out and installing new material in huge batches. The concentrated exposure to asbestos, even for short periods, can have dramatic consequences.
Asbestos fibers that are inhaled settle in the lungs. As the body works to rid itself of the fibers, lung function is compromised. Because the fibers are never actually removed, they will continue to cause damage for life. It’s for this reason that asbestos symptoms are often not realized until years after exposure. Asbestos has been directly linked to lung disease, lung cancer, and most severe, mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that results directly from asbestos exposure. Cancerous cells form on the outer lining of the lungs and other internal organs. The ease of metastasizing and its location in the body cavity make it nearly impossible to treat. These same factors also make it one of the most painful forms of cancer.
Ignoring the Asbestos Problem at Alcoa Aluminum
Businesses knew of the dangers of asbestos for decades before any of them made efforts to protect employees. In almost all cases, simple respirators would’ve been enough. Instead of making investments in employee health, industry leaders chose to ignore the problem, knowing that acknowledging the danger might put their profits at risk. Now, so many years later, they are finally being held accountable for that decision. It isn’t enough that the continued use of asbestos come with safety guarantees. Those whose lives were negatively influenced by the material without ever being told of the threat or given the chance to decide deserve justice.
If you or a loved one worked at the Alcoa magnesium smelting plant in Addy, Washington, and later went on to develop mesothelioma, you may be entitled to compensation. If you have any questions about your legal options, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We understand the difficulty of this situation. We’re offering free consultations to those who are interested. Schedule an appointment today.