Huntsville was Alabama’s first incorporated city and the state’s original capital. It started as a small Southern town, but grew into a large metropolitan area known for its Redstone Arsenal and as the birthplace of the country’s space rocket program. Huntsville’s quick growth includes a history of asbestos use.
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Huntsville and Asbestos Facts
- Huntsville’s rapid growth included the use of asbestos in building construction and several industries.
- Between 741 and 903 asbestos-related deaths occurred in Alabama from 1979 to 2004, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
A History of Industry and Asbestos in Huntsville
Originally founded as Twickenham in 1809, the city was renamed Huntsville in 1811 to honor John Hunt, the area’s first settler. Initially, its main industry was cotton, but the city grew and the economy expanded to include textile mills and railroad transportation connections.
The area became more industrialized by the turn of the 20th Century. The establishment of several munitions factories and the Army’s Redstone Arsenal during World War II was the catalyst for Huntsville’s recovery after the Great Depression.
After the war, munitions factories closed, but the Cold War with the former Soviet Union compelled the Army to establish its missile research facilities in Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal. At Redstone, the Army tested ballistic missiles for military use.
Huntsville earned the nickname Rocket City, and the first U.S. satellite, Explorer I, was launched from Redstone Arsenal on January 31, 1958. Later, the Marshall Space Flight Center helped develop the Saturn rockets that took astronauts to the Moon during Project Apollo. It was also a key player in the Space Shuttle and International Space Station programs.
All of these industries used asbestos to some degree for its ability to insulate and protect against fire, heat, and friction.
Where Asbestos Was Used in Huntsville
The establishment of the military and civilian missile programs and the influx of new workers created a demand for new housing in Huntsville. While the evolution of Huntsville had beneficial effects for northern Alabama, it also has a tragic connection to America’s asbestos problem.
The boom in industrial and residential growth in Huntsville and the state led to thousands of tons of asbestos imported into Alabama. From the mid-1800s to the late 1970s it was used in the construction of industrial, commercial, and residential buildings.
Asbestos is extremely dangerous to human health. The tiny asbestos fibers are easy to inhale or swallow, and once inside the body, they can build up over time. Exposure triggers diseases such as asbestos-related lung cancer, asbestosis, and malignant mesothelioma.
Beginning in the 1800s, some of the important industries to Huntsville that used asbestos in their buildings, equipment, machinery, or products included:
- Textile mills
- Railroad locomotives
- Power plants
- Auto repair shops
Huntsville Job Sites Where Asbestos Exposure Occurred
Many industries used asbestos minerals and their derivatives across a wide spectrum of products and purposes. As a result, many Huntsville job sites in both the public and private sectors are known to have asbestos exposure issues. Though many of the companies named in the list have changed names, corporate owners, or dissolved, asbestos exposure issues occurred at the following job sites:
- Redstone Arsenal
- Huntsville Arsenal
- Huntsville Depot
- Marshall Space Flight Center
- Jenkins Brick & Tile Company
- Huntsville Ice & Coal Company
- Olin-Mathieson Chemical Corporation
- Calabama Chemical Company
- Gulf Chemical Warfare Depot
- Huntsville Railway & Light Power Company (Huntsville Utilities)
- Dunlop Tire & Rubber Company
- Dallas Manufacturing Company
- Pate Supply Company of Huntsville
- Pipefitters Union/Local 377
- Huntsville Ice Cream & Creamery Company
- Huntsville Brick & Tile
National Cancer Institute-Designated Cancer Centers in Alabama
- UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 1802 Sixth Avenue South, Birmingham, AL 35294, (205) 975-8222, 1-800-822-0933
Getting Legal Help
Keep in mind that you may be eligible for significant compensation. Get our free Financial Compensation Packet for information on the top mesothelioma and asbestos lawyers in your area. If you need additional assistance, contact us toll-free at 800-793-4540.
Page Reviewed and Edited by Alabama Mesothelioma Lawyer Lawrence Holcomb
After a career in asbestos abatement and remediation, Lawrence Holcomb earned a law degree to put his expertise to use in the service of mesothelioma and asbestosis victims. As a lawyer with mesothelioma focused Flint Law Firm, LLC in Birmingham, Alabama, he has litigated many asbestos cases and has helped win more than $50 million in settlements.