Illinois Mesothelioma Resources and Asbestos Information

Like many other states, Illinois has had its share of problems concerning asbestos. Places where exposure to this material is highest include factories, shipbuilding facilities and power plants, and over the course of the last century, a great many people living in Illinois worked at or around such areas. Although the lack of natural serpentine deposits in the state failed to support the mining of this material, the amount of asbestos used in Illinois in the past 100 years remains high.

Asbestos found its way to Illinois in the same manner as almost everything else: it arrived by rail or by ship. Because of its natural border with Lake Michigan, Illinois became a prime shipping and receiving center for merchandise traveling the Great Lakes; the growth of Chicago into one of the nation’s largest metropolises is testimony to the importance of an accessible waterway. As the state grew in population, so did the number of industrial plants, shipyards, and coal burning power stations, all of which demanded that workers be protected from high heat and other industrial hazards with protective materials.

Ironically, the material used for worker protection was often asbestos, which is a dangerous fiber that causes a multitude of diseases when inhaled. In the case of shipyards, vessels were usually constructed with asbestos lining the walls near heat sources, and pipes were often wrapped with this material, which is a very good fire retardant. Protective clothing was also constructed with asbestos fibers for workers subject to the dangers of excess heat. When working below decks, employees were exposed to escaped asbestos fibers, which were concentrated and trapped in these cramped quarters, resulting in a great deal of fiber inhalation.

Over the years, schools and hospitals were also constructed using asbestos as an insulator and heat retardant in and around boiler rooms and plumbing pipes. The number of structures in Illinois that are known to have contained asbestos continues to grow, and include sites where buildings may no longer exist, but the friable fibers have concentrated in the soil and remain hazardous to this day.

Recent investigation has turned up new sources for asbestos exposure, especially power stations across the state. Long ago, most of the power plants were coal burning facilities, and even though they have been modernized in recent decades, many of the buildings are still the original structures, which were insulated with asbestos.  Today, the state of Illinois has laws prohibiting the use of asbestos in new construction, but the total amount of this dangerous material still in existence in older structures has not been completely determined.