In Pittsburgh, U.S. Steel was once a big deal. Founded in 1901 when three different steel companies merged, it was the first billion dollar corporation in the U.S. and it made lots of money for its owners and executives. Thousands upon thousands of individuals throughout the United States and in Canada and Central Europe have been employed by U.S. Steel (formerly USX) and the company’s massive tower still dominates Pittsburgh’s skyline, housing just a fraction of the employees that once made up the city’s U.S. Steel workforce.
For decades, the picture was rosy as far as the steel industry was concerned. Employees took home sizeable paychecks and entire towns grew up around these steel mills, including those owned by US Steel. In Pittsburgh, they even named the football team after the city’s most prominent industry, and U.S. Steel promoted their products with slogans such as “Steel lightens your work, brightens your leisure and widens your world.”
Sadly, however, working in a steel mill wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops. What many employees didn’t realize was that the chemicals and other materials used inside a steel-making plant were toxic. One of the most hazardous was asbestos. Inside the Pittsburgh-area facilities and others around the country, asbestos insulation was used to protect workers from injuries caused by high-temperature equipment and processes used in the production of steel.
Often, temperatures reached up to 3,000 degrees, so ovens, furnaces, tanks, boilers, and a variety of other pieces of machinery were lined with asbestos materials. In addition, workers wore clothing made of asbestos to protect them from burns, including lab coasts, pants, aprons, and – horrifyingly – masks that went placed directly over their nose and mouth.
By the end of 2005, the company had reported 14,000 asbestos-related claims filed against them. Though the numbers have declined slightly since then, Wikinvest reports 440 cases in 2009 alone, involving more than 3,000 plaintiffs nationwide! These cases involved not only individuals directly employed by the corporation but also other industrial workers exposed to products formerly manufactured by U.S. Steel.
Numbers like this make it easy to understand the frustration of so many U.S. Steel workers who are now suffering from mesothelioma. Even more frustrating is the fact that executives often knew about the dangers of exposure to asbestos but allowed the use of the toxic mineral to continue. In most cases, it all came down to the bottom line. Asbestos was cheap and – where profits are concerned – cheap is better.
Safer alternatives to asbestos use have been available for decades but companies like U.S. Steel rarely took advantage of those more-expensive options, choosing instead to continue to expose their workers to asbestos while upping their risk of developing cancer.
Those struggling with mesothelioma should realize, however, that – in many cases – it’s not too late to hold U.S. Steel responsible for their negligence. An experienced mesothelioma attorney can do the legwork necessary to determine whether or not a former employee has grounds for a lawsuit and will work with the victim and his family to garner compensation to assist with medical bills and other burgeoning expenses. Some statutes of limitations apply, so don’t delay your inquiries if you’ve been sickened by asbestos exposure at the hands of U.S. Steel.