Understanding, Managing, and Living with the

Health Effects of Asbestos

Asbestos-Related Deaths Linked to “Factory of Death”

October 25, 2014

Melbourne, Australia A “factory of death” might sound like something out of a horror movie, but for many people living in a Melbourne suburb, the factory of death didn’t seem terrible at the time. That might be because they did not realize until years later that the asbestos from a nearby factory could cause serious health problems, including asbestosis and mesothelioma. In fact, so little was known about asbestos at the time, that children reportedly played in piles of the carcinogen. It was only decades later, after people have died from asbestos-related diseases, that the true harm caused by asbestos was known.

The Herald Sun (10/11/14) reports that at least 16 people who grew up within one kilometer of the factory have died from diseases linked to asbestos exposure, with another eight diagnosed with similar diseases. The youngest to have died so far was only 42 years old. He was exposed to asbestos while walking to and from school and playing in asbestos waste. According to the reports, from the 1950s to the 1970s, residents would see asbestos blowing with the clouds, while cars would be covered in white powder.

Children rode their bikes through the area, sometimes riding over ground covered in asbestos fibers. In the one-kilometer area near the factory, approximately 4,000 people live in around 2,000 homes. One asbestos victim reportedly wrote that neighborhood children would play in piles of “snow” and throw asbestos at each other.

Following a report from the Herald Sun, authorities in Australia said they would investigate and clean up the contaminated areas.

Asbestos-related diseases can take decades for symptoms to appear. Lawsuits are now being filed against employers and companies that allowed workers and their families to be exposed to asbestos without providing adequate warnings or safety gear about the risks of asbestos exposure.

One such lawsuit was filed by Brett Walker against Ford Motor Co. According to court documents, an Ohio court recently affirmed a jury verdict in favor of Walker, who alleged he developed asbestosis and Hodgkin’s lymphoma from working for Ford from the 1970s to the 1990s. The court’s ruling means Walker is eligible to participate in Ohio’s workers’ compensation system for his Hodgkin’s lymphoma. His claim for compensation benefits had previously been denied.

The lawsuit is Brett H. Walker vs. Ford Motor Co., Et Al., case number CV-10-717986, Ohio Court of Appeals.