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Forced to breathe at times through oxygen tubes, the Rev. Kevin Goode nonetheless counts his blessings. Although his lungs are scarred from asbestos exposure and he has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, he’s in better condition than other former employees of rubber factories in Akron, Ohio.
Goode, retired pastor of Church of the Harvest, worked 15 years for the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. For most of that time, he tested the characteristics of competitors’ tires in a lab while other employees built new tires below. He didn’t think much about the asbestos, chemicals and soot inside the building, or the black clouds billowing from smokestacks around the Rubber Capital of the World.
“The stuff was everywhere – in your pores, on your skin,” Goode recalled of the lamp black, also known as carbon black, which added sturdiness and color to the tires but can cause skin conditions, cancer, respiratory problems and cardiovascular disease. “You take a shower, you blow your nose or if you cough up phlegm, it was always black.”
Goode, 64, started at the factory in 1975 when he was 17. “You’re young and you think you’re invincible, but you knew it had an impact,” he said of his exposures.