For nearly 50 years, Minneapolis was known as the Flour Milling Capital of the World. This is a point of pride for many Minnesotans, and we still see remnants of that past today in the glowing “Gold Medal Flour” sign and museums in the old mills.
However, despite the long local history of this industry in the Twin Cities, it posed a considerable risk to workers for many years.
Asbestos was a common hazard in flour mills
Inhaling flour dust was one serious risk for flour mill workers. If flour dust became airborne and workers inhaled it, it could cause serious damage to their respiratory systems. In some cases, it could even result in occupational asthma.
And yet, there was another dust that put their health at risk as well. Like many other industrial mills during this time, flour mills under Pillsbury and General Mills both utilized asbestos in:
- The construction and insulation of the mills
- Equipment including boilers, ovens and kettles
- The protective gear worn by some workers
These risks were not only common during the flour mill boom around World War I either. Asbestos could be found in these items frequently between the years of 1930 and 1980 as well.
As we have discussed in previous blog posts, the resulting diseases from asbestos exposure – particularly mesothelioma – have a long latency period. Even if these mills took measures to remove asbestos from their factories, workers likely still faced risks in the early 20th century.
All workers faced risks
Regardless of where someone worked in the flour mills or what their job duties involved, they could have faced a serious risk of asbestos exposure. This much is evident by how common it was to find asbestos in the mills, as well as the spiking number of mesothelioma claims General Mills faced from former workers all across the country over the years.
Former General Mills workers should be aware of this risk they faced at work, as well as the risk of mesothelioma they could face now.