Huntsville was Alabama’s first incorporated city and the state’s original capital. With a population of 183,789, Huntsville has evolved over the past 70 years from a small Southern town into a large metropolitan area known for its Redstone Arsenal, the birthplace of the country’s space rocket program. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center is headquartered in Huntsville, which is nicknamed “Rocket City.”
Huntsville’s relatively quick growth, however, includes a history of asbestos use in a state where the fibrous minerals were imported from Libby, Montana, and other places for use in government facilities, industrial job sites, and even residential homes/ As a result, it is estimated that between 741 and 903 asbestos-related deaths occurred in Alabama from 1979 to 2004, per the Environmental Working Group.
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, or asbestosis, you may be eligible to receive a substantial amount of compensation. Fill out our form to receive our free Financial Compensation Packet. Our packet is loaded with information on leading Huntsville mesothelioma attorneys, how to file a claim for asbestos trust funds, how to get paid in 90 days, and more.
Huntsville and Asbestos
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 the cultivation of cotton, but the city grew as its economy expanded to include textile mills and railroad transportation connections.
After the Civil War, Huntsville was still dependent on cotton and textile production, but the area became more industrialized by the turn of the 20th Century. The city’s economy floundered during the Great Depression, but 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 war, the munitions factories were 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.
Later, when the National Air and Space Administration was established, America’s civilian space program was born when the Marshall Space Flight Center was set up, also in Redstone. Huntsville earned the nickname Rocket City as a result, 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.
The post-Depression boom which resulted from America’s entry into World War II also boosted Huntsville’s population. With thousands of people seeking jobs in war production plants such as the Huntsville Arsenal and Gulf Chemical Warfare Depot, new housing projects were built. Most of the wartime workers left after the peacetime closure of two of the munitions centers , and Huntsville’s population decreased to 16,437 in 1950.
However, the establishment of the military and civilian missile programs and the influx of new workers created a demand for new housing, much of which became permanent as Huntsville changed from being a cotton-dependent community to its present status as a high-technology city.
While the evolution of Huntsville had beneficial effects for northern Alabama, it also has a tragic connection to America’s asbestos problem. Even though the state has no asbestos mines, thousands of tons were imported into Alabama for use by various private enterprises and government agencies from the mid-1800s to the late 1970s.
Humans have used the six minerals known collectively as asbestos for centuries because they have attractive properties, such as the ability to withstand intense heat, absorb sound, and resist chemical reactions. Asbestos can also be added to other materials, such as metals or cement to provide tensile strength. Since these minerals are abundant and found throughout the world, they are easy to extract and inexpensive to process.
Asbestos minerals are fibrous and highly toxic to humans. The small size of asbestos fibers makes them easy to inhale or swallow, and once inside the tissue of the respiratory system or the abdominal wall, they can build up over time and trigger diseases such as lung cancer, asbestosis, and malignant mesothelioma.
As in many American communities, asbestos was introduced to Huntsville during the Industrial Revolution of the 19th Century. Steam engines and several types of furnaces and milling tools had parts made with asbestos to protect them from heat and fire damage.
Textile mills, railroad locomotives, and sawmills also used gaskets and friction-reducing components which contained asbestos. With the advent of electricity and the internal combustion engine, power plants and auto repair shops were either built with or utilized asbestos-containing materials (ACMs).
The construction industry also used many types of ACMs to build everything from government facilities to private residences. Until the 1970s, when the Environmental Protection Agency officially reported a causal connection between asbestos exposure and medical conditions such as lung cancer, asbestosis, and malignant mesothelioma.
Builders used insulation, soundproofing materials, steam pipes, heaters, roofing shingles, flooring panels, and asbestos-containing cement. Thus, many houses and apartment buildings built during World War II and the early postwar decades may still have large amounts of ACMs.
Huntsville Job Sites Where Asbestos Exposure Occurred
As noted earlier, 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)
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 info on the top mesothelioma and asbestos lawyers in your area. If you need additional assistance, contact us toll-free at 800-793-4540.