Bethlehem Steel Open Hearth Furnace

At Bethlehem Steel in Lackawanna, New York, the open hearth furnaces were the primary means of producing steel from pig iron. Open hearth furnaces remove impurities from molten iron, scrap steel and limestone when charged in the furnace. Heat for the furnace is supplied by blowing a combination of air and fuel gas into the hearth. When heat is applied, slag forms on top of the molten steel, which absorbs the impurities in the steel. After several hours, most of the carbon contained in the molten steel oxidizes, and the steel is poured into a ladle for further processing. The slag is then removed from the hearth.

Prior to the late 1970s, open hearth furnaces contained refractory brick and they were covered with asbestos-containing insulation. At Bethlehem Steel and in order to retain heat more efficiently, asbestos-containing slurry insulation covered the open hearth furnaces. This insulation was manufactured as a dry powder and mixed with water to form a paste, which was applied to the furnace. When the dry mix was poured and mixed, a cloud of asbestos-containing dust was produced.

Because of the high temperatures used during the steel making process, pipes associated with the open hearth furnaces were insulated with asbestos-containing pipe covering and insulating cement. Asbestos-containing pipe covering was typically manufactured in three-foot lengths. When it was cut to fit a smaller length, large amounts of asbestos fibers were released into the air. Asbestos-containing insulating cement was used to insulate the pipe elbows. This cement was manufactured as a dry powder, and mixed with water to produce a paste-like substance, which was applied to the pipe. Due to normal wear and tear, these materials were removed and reapplied and, in the process, emitted dangerous levels of asbestos dust and fibers that insulation workers, maintenance personnel and steel workers inhaled.

The attorneys at Lipsitz, Ponterio & Comerford, LLC have gathered a vast amount of information concerning the type and variety of asbestos-containing products at Bethlehem Steel in Lackawanna. Our clients understand the importance of securing legal representation as soon as possible after a diagnosis of mesothelioma or lung cancer. If you or a loved one were once employed at Bethlehem Steel, and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer, we urge you to contact us regarding your legal rights.

* Image above provided by: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Engineering Record, Reproduction Number NY,15-LACK,1-86



Bethlehem Steel – Dangers Posed at the Open Hearths