Alcoa Wenatchee Works, established in 1952, covers approximately 2700 acres 11 miles South of Wenatchee.
The first aluminum plant built in the Pacific Northwest in the post-war era, Alcoa Wenatchee Works came about as a direct result of a request by the Office of Defense Mobilization to increase domestic production of aluminum. Today, the plant produces more than 210,000 tons of primary aluminum each year.
Asbestos Exposure at Alcoa Aluminum Wenatchee WA
Asbestos exposure was not unusual in the aluminum industry. Prior to the late 1970s, asbestos was common both in industrial applications. Asbestos was valued in the aluminum industry for its heat-resistant properties. Aluminum production requires heating materials to around 960 degrees Celsius, and asbestos was used to insulate ovens, boilers, furnaces, and even the heat-resistant mitts that employees used to handle hot materials. In 1989, a study in the British Journal of Industrial Medicine found that the incidence of cancer in magnesium industry workers was greater than that of the general population.
Asbestos exposure was cited as one of the most likely contributing factors.
When damaged or crumbling, asbestos insulation is considered to be one of the most harmful types of asbestos exposure. Asbestos is most dangerous when it is friable – meaning that it crumbles easily producing tiny fibers which can be inhaled. Prior to widespread asbestos regulation, aluminum industry workers would have been exposed to potentially friable asbestos-based insulation on a daily basis. Families of workers were also placed at risk, as asbestos fibers in the air would settle on clothing and be carried home.
In January of 2009, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled against Alcoa in a suit by a young woman who developed lung cancer due to exposure from asbestos carried home on her father’s clothing from his job in a Tennessee plant. In the words of the Tennessee Supreme Court, Alcoa “has a full duty to prevent its employees from going home at the end of the workday in clothes that are contaminated with asbestos fibers.”
In addition to industrial exposure to asbestos, In 1952 when Alcoa Wenatchee Works was first constructed, asbestos was widely used as a building material. A large industrial building of that era would likely have utilized asbestos-based insulation, asbestos ceiling and floor tiles, asbestos-based adhesives, and many other items which could potentially expose workers to asbestos.
Some of the dangers of asbestos exposure were understood as early as the 1930s. By the 1960s, doctors had identified a definitive link between asbestos and certain types of deadly lung cancer. Despite these findings, companies like Alcoa continued to make use of asbestos without proper safety precautions until the late 1970s, exposing thousands of workers and their families to unnecessary risk. Although illnesses can take decades to develop, the eventual impact of exposure may have deadly consequences.
Employees at Alcoa Aluminum Wenatchee Entitled to Compensation
If you or someone you love worked at Alcoa Aluminum or another job site and suffer from mesothelioma you may be entitled to compensation. Contact Bergman Draper Oslund today, for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation.