In Detroit and elsewhere, the high rate of cancer and other deadly illnesses in America’s auto factory workers continues to be a growing concern.
A link between auto workers and cancer began gaining attention in the 1970s. During this time, asbestos-related cancers such as mesothelioma began cropping up in an unusual number of industry employees. The cause, as it turns out, is the extended amount of time that auto employees spent working around asbestos-laden brake pads and clutch plates.
Though asbestos regulation enacted in the 1970s and beyond have significantly limited the amount of asbestos exposure current auto workers are exposed to, the number of new mesothelioma cases continues to rise. This is because mesothelioma has a latency period of between 20 and 50 years. As such, retired auto workers who worked in plants prior to the 1980s are only now experiencing the deadly side effects of working among such hazardous materials.
Though asbestos is now regulated, it is not the only hazardous material found in our nation’s auto factories. Hazards that are as old as the auto industry itself include paint vapors and solvents, welding fumes, foundry chemicals, die cast components and carcinogens released during pattern making.
Since the 1980s, a number of studies have been released that correlate the above list of hazards to a growing number of potentially fatal illnesses. For auto workers specifically, the facts can most easily be summed up by a 1994 study titled “Cancer in the Auto Industry.” In the study, the author lists a number of illnesses that can be linked to specific jobs in auto factories. These correlations include:
- Assembly plant workers: Hodgkin’s Disease and lung, lymphoma, stomach, pancreas and trachea cancer
- Ball bearing production: pancreas and stomach cancers
- Die casting & electro-plating: lympho-reticulo sarcomas and stomach cancers
- Engine plants: liver and bladder conditions
- Engine and foundry plants: stomach and prostrate cancers
- Maintenance: pancreatic cancer
- Mechanics/Repairmen: stomach, bladder, lymphopoietic and lung cancers
- Millwrights: rectum and lung cancers
- Patternmakers: colon, brain, colorectal and stomach cancers
- Spray Painters: colon cancer
- Tool and die makers: digestive and lymphopoetic cancers
Welders: lung, pancreas and stomach cancers
Source: Energy Publisher