The concept of a cooling tower itself suggests the use of asbestos. A cooling tower is meant to convert excess heat from a coolant or water into waste heat and let it off into the atmosphere. Depending on the type and the use of the tower, the makeup of cooling towers can vary significantly. One of the most common uses of a cooling tower has been the circulating of water in oil refineries. It has also found use in chemical and power plants. Some of these towers are actually small in size and can easily be fitted onto a roof. The larger varieties are free-standing structures.
Regardless of size, cooling towers made with asbestos were naturally hazardous to those around. The main people who may have been affected by this are HVAC workers who are called on to service cooling towers. As with all things, when cooling towers aged and the materials that made them up were subject to natural wear and tear, the asbestos came loose and became free-flowing in the atmosphere. There is also the possibility of the fibers being discharged into the air via steam released from the cooling tower.
There is no exhalation of these fibers once they are inhaled. The damage is permanent and can cause inflammation as well as tumors. Though the use of asbestos-containing materials was severely restricted in the 1980s, it was too late for many individuals who had already contracted illnesses such as asbestosis, pleural plaques and even the fatal form of cancer called mesothelioma. Unfortunately, many manufacturers of asbestos-containing products knew of the associated dangers of the substance and continued to use it. Often, no protective gear was ever provided to the people who came in contact with this substance.