Created in Brooklyn, New York, Kentile Floors produced floor tiles in mass quantity from 1898 throughout most of the 1900’s. With a large purple neon sign, the plant can be seen from far away throughout the city. The facility was once claimed as the largest manufacturer of super resilient flooring tiles in the entire US. The company was popular for producing flooring with many different designs. Customers were very pleased that they could pick out a pattern that was unique, and actually fit their personal style in a time when most produced few options.
The production of flooring tile requires a unique set of equipment and highly skilled employees. The large scale the company operated on required that their facilities be large and that production occur quickly. Chemicals are an absolute necessity in production, and many that are used are high caustic. To protect both workers and equipment, the facility used asbestos gear and tools to help protect employees. In an ironic turn of fate, this same protective equipment eventually led to some employees developing the dangerous diseases mesothelioma and asbestosis.
Asbestos in virtually any form is highly prone to releasing dust into the air. This is particularly true when it is being handled by employees. Oftentimes, the gear they wore that contained the toxin would release particles directly in front of them. In turn, these workers couldn’t help but inhale the substance. Mesothelioma and other asbestos related diseases generally don’t develop until many years after exposure. This is due in part to the body’s inability to get rid of it from the abdominal and chest cavity once inhaled.
Mesothelioma is a rare and deadly form of cancer that occurs when the cells in the membranes that protect vital organs are damaged by contact with asbestos. The only way to improve life expectancy for tile industry employees who develop complications is to detect the disease early. Unfortunately, it can be extremely difficult for these individuals to recognize that their previous work is what actually is causing such symptoms. Most workers who were exposed will not develop mesothelioma, but a small proportion of them will.
Asbestosis and other asbestos related diseases aren’t quite as deadly, but certainly aren’t good to have either. Whether a person develops one of these illnesses or mesothelioma, their quality of life is likely to be impaired. There are treatment options for those who are properly diagnosed.