Asbestos in Iowa

Farms in Iowa take up about 92 percent of available land throughout the state, demonstrating how significant the agricultural sector is to the state’s economy. Iowa has also become dependent on manufacturing, energy production, technology, and food manufacturing.

Each industry once integrated asbestos, a carcinogen that causes mesothelioma, into multiple products and structures. Nearly 1,000 Iowa residents have died from an asbestos-related disease. Both occupational and environmental factors have contributed to work-related exposure.

Occupational Exposure

Some of the country’s largest industrial companies operate in Iowa. Those companies used the carcinogen in several applications, like insulation and fireproof materials. Thousands of workers throughout Iowa were likely exposed to the toxin.

Top Iowa industries at risk of exposure include:

  • Agriculture
  • Boiler installation
  • Chemical plants
  • Construction
  • Manufacturing
  • Mining
  • Metal manufacturing
  • Power plants

Working in these industries could increase the risk of developing mesothelioma.

This is an image representing a chemical company.

E. I. DuPont de Nemours and Company

DuPont is one of the largest chemical companies in the world. The company’s headquarters is in Delaware, but DuPont also operated an ethanol plant in Lee County, Iowa. Industrial waste contaminated the facilities, soil, and the surrounding area. For decades, workers come into contact with trace amounts of asbestos.

This is an icon representing a farm.

John Deere (Dubuque Works)

Nearly 200 years ago, John Deere changed the process of farming by creating the self-scouring steel plow. Now, the American corporation manufactures agricultural, construction, and forestry machinery, diesel engines, drivetrains, and lawn care equipment. John Deere operates several locations throughout Iowa, including:

  • Davenport Works in Davenport, IA
  • Des Moines Works in Ankeny, IA
  • Dubuque Works in Dubuque, IA
  • Ottumwa Works in Ottumwa, IA
  • Ower Systems and Engine Works in Waterloo, IA
  • Waterloo Works in Waterloo, IA

Dubuque Works, a 1,500-acre property, has been in operation since 1946. For decades, contamination from improper waste disposal affected hundreds of workers. Older equipment contained asbestos in brake pads and linings, clutch facings, and other auto parts. Mechanics and technicians could have been exposed to airborne dust.

This is an image representing a boiler.


Weil-McLain is North America’s leading hydronic comfort heating systems designer and manufacturing company. The company was founded in 1881 and is currently under a division of The Marley-Wylain Company.

Equipment sold by Weil-McLain commonly gets installed in Iowa homes or workplaces. The company’s products, including boilers, contain asbestos. Workers came into contact with the carcinogen when installing, repairing, and ripping out Weil-McLain equipment.

Many victims in Iowa have filed complaints against Weil-McLain. The company has been found guilty for consciously disregarding the safety of others, and has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages to victims.

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Environmental Exposure

While mining asbestos wasn’t very common in Iowa, other environmental factors increase the risk of exposure. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Iowa ranks among the top ten states for the average number of tornadoes each year. In Iowa, both tornadoes and floods have caused serious destruction.

Iowa residents who live near areas of natural disaster risk exposure to the carcinogen. When tornadoes or floods rip through communities, the process of destruction often releases dust into the air. Structures that contain asbestos admits airborne asbestos fibers embodied in the dust. When floodwaters recede, asbestos fibers can be left behind, dry up, and become airborne.

This is an image representing a small town.

Fort Dodge

The industrial city of Fort Dodge consists of over 25,000 residents. Much of the city’s job market consists of limestone and gypsum mining, drywall manufacturing, and construction. Some companies still produce products that contain the toxin, increasing the risk of exposure for Fort Dodge residents.

Gypsum is a mineral mined and used for fertilizer, plaster, chalk, and drywall (Gypsum board). Most gypsum products contain asbestos. Gypsum mining operations in Fort Dodge include:

  • Celotex Corporation
  • National Gypsum Company
  • United States Gypsum Company

This is an image representing farm related machinery.

W.R. Grace and Company

William Russell Grace founded W.R. Grace and Company in 1854. The original business, called Grace Brothers & Co., initially specialized in fertilizer and machinery operations. Over the next century, W.R. Grace got involved with shipping, cruise lines, banking, petroleum, drilling, and healthcare. Eventually, the company began mining silver, clay phosphate, tin, and ore.

During the mid-to-late 1900s, W.R. Grace directly exposed its workers and the entire population of two neighboring towns, Libby and Troy, Montana, to asbestos. The contamination caused by W.R. Grace spread to nearly every state in the country, including Iowa.

Several million tons of ore containing asbestos were shipped across the United States from 1948 to 1993. There were 353 shipments of ore to Iowa from Libby, totaling nearly 14,000 tons. Iowa cities that received shipments from Libby:

  • Ames
  • Atlantic
  • Cedar Rapids
  • Clive
  • Council Bluffs
  • Des Moines
  • Fort Dodge
  • Sioux City
  • Sperry

Companies or organizations from these cities received asbestos from W.R. Grace.

Filing a Claim In Iowa

Iowa mesothelioma patients have two years from the date of diagnosis to file a lawsuit against companies that produced the toxin or negligently exposed workers. If you were diagnosed with mesothelioma, you could be eligible for legal compensation.

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