Textile operators perform several functions, chief among them being the transformation of raw materials into yarn which can then be turned into cloth. There was a time when asbestos was a favorite raw material in the production of flame-retardant cloth. A textile operator separates individual fibers from one another, cards them, processes them, and weaves them into textiles.

Until the mid 1970s, most textile mills produced textiles that were at least partially made from asbestos. It wasn’t until after the mid ’70s that this came to a stop as a result of several contamination incidents. While some of these mills were shutdown entirely, some were kept in operation with attempts made to remove the asbestos. The process of removal was rarely completely successful, and some of these factories were kept in operation as late as 2004.

Asbestos and Textile Operation

Several recent studies have established a firm link between textile operators and mesothelioma. An English study showed that textile operators had three hundred times more asbestos in their lungs than normal. The link between mesothelioma and asbestos has already been firmly established, which means that textile operators are much more likely to have mesothelioma than the average person. One mill reported that 8 percent of its employees suffered from the cancer. Other studies have shown that 2 percent of textile operators who work with asbestos either directly or indirectly end up developing mesothelioma. There is an understanding that virtually any job comes with a risk of injury. Even so, most people today expect that the risks will be minimized and explained to the workers. Unfortunately, even in the relatively recent past, this was not the case when it came to textile operators and asbestos.

The irony of asbestos is that it was used in so many products and homes because it had the ability to save lives. Few substances are as resistant to fire as asbestos, it kept people protected from chemical burn, and it was also a good electrical insulator. Asbestos was thought to be harmless if the fibers were kept secure in the material that the products were made from, but when these materials became older they easily came apart. A small amount of pressure was required in order to turn them into dust which could then be absorbed into the air and drinking water. Unfortunately, asbestos related diseases can take decades to manifest themselves.

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