Friday, March 21, 2008

Asbestos Worker

This picture shows a worker spreading asbestos on the boiler of a locomotive. It was taken in 1942. It is amazing how many old pictures you find like this one, showing someone working with asbestos, without any breathing protection. Also notice that his hat and coveralls are covered with asbestos. It was in the 1940's that people really began to suspect that there were health hazards associated with asbestos exposure. It was found to cause both asbestosis, a form of inflammation of the lungs, and Mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that can almost always be associated with exposure to asbestos. It affects the linings of organs, especially the lungs. It has been found that even the family members of those working in the asbestos industry can be susceptible to these diseases.

It really makes you wonder what types of things they might tell you are safe today, and then you find out years later they were dangerous. When I was a teenager, I worked in a cotton gin for $1 an hour. While there was not any asbestos there (that I know of), there was a large amount of fine cotton fibers, which I have heard can be a concern. I only worked there one summer, so hopefully it will not be an issue. I do believe, though, that overall, worker safety has greatly improved in the United States. I think the greatest work danger these days is due to stress to get too much done in too little time.


  1. Yes, so many dangerous substances still being used and no one seems to know (or care?) that they are carcinogenic until it's too late. I opened a packaged flashlight from China and was shocked how toxic the rubber smelled. The dyes they use in clothes also smell dangerous.
    Yesterday all Israel Air Force training flights in the sophisticated F-16i were stopped. Pilots had complained of a bad smell in the cockpit of one jet. It turned out to be from formaldehyde, whose fumes can be cancer-causing. Lockheed Martin Corp. is also investigating now.

  2. Dina,
    Your point about China is a good one . . . they appear to let lots of things known to be bad sliip through the cracks.

    I also worry about the things that happen to the food we eat. If I could afford it, I would shop at whole foods and eat organic food.

  3. Loved the posted old pictures--great wallpaper for my iPod Touch. "Asbestos Worker" took me back to high school chem class and Mo's Scale of Hardness. I remember mindlessly shredding large pieces of raw asbestos in class--from a slate-like rock to a fuzzy, down feather mounds--in an effort to see how hard the mineral was. Twenty years on, I wonder just how many years that took off my life... .


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