Northwest Alloys, Addy
Northwest Alloys is a wholly owned subsidiary of Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa). In 1975, Northwest Alloys opened a magnesium production plant in Addy, an unincorporated area of rural Stevens County, in Washington State. At its height, the Addy plant provided 770 jobs in Stevens County, accounting for 4.9% of total county employment. Alcoa ceased magnesium production at the Addy plant in 2001, citing high energy costs and low magnesium prices. Although total employee numbers had dropped, at the time of the plant’s closure its 325 employees made it “about the biggest employer in one of the poorest counties in the state.”
Prior to the late 1970s, asbestos was common both in building materials and in general industrial applications. In the aluminum industry, asbestos was useful for its heat-resistant properties, because aluminum production requires heating materials to around 960 degrees Celsius. Asbestos was used to insulate ovens, boilers, furnaces, and even the heat-resistant mitts that employees used to handle hot materials. A 1989 study in the British Journal of Industrial Medicine found that the incidence of cancer in magnesium industry workers was greater than expected for the general population, citing asbestos exposure as one of the most likely contributing factors.
When in a damaged state, insulation containing asbestos 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.
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 to unnecessary risk.
Although asbestos-related illnesses can take decades to develop, the eventual consequences of exposure can be deadly. If you or someone you love worked at Northwest Alloys or another job site and suffer from mesothelioma or other asbestos-related illness, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact Bergman Draper Oslund today, for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation.