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Asbestos Risk to Insulators

Insulation is used to help in controlling and maintaining the temperature inside of buildings and homes. Unfortunately, for much of the twentieth century, insulation contained asbestos. The dangers of exposure to asbestos include the development of mesothelioma and other cancers. Individuals who are employed as insulators are at increased risk of exposure to asbestos fibers, particularly if this work occurred before the 1980s. 

Asbestos Risk to Insulators: Dangers of Insulation

Asbestos insulation was the largest source of exposure for workers throughout the 1900s. It was used in homes, buildings, ships, cars, and manufacturing facilities. Insulation is beneficial because it conserves energy, reduces electrical conductivity, and retains hot and cold temperatures. Before the 1980s, asbestos was extensively used in insulation materials due to its resistance to fire and heat, as well as it being a poor conductor of electricity.

Insulation was and continues to be used in attics, walls, ceilings, flooring, siding, pipe wrapping, and inside of boilers. Today, fiberglass is used instead of asbestos. However, many materials containing asbestos remain in buildings. As a result, individuals performing work on buildings or homes should be cautious about the possibility of asbestos exposure.

From a historical perspective, the risk of exposure to asbestos fibers was significant. For example, insulators were at great risk when they measured and cut insulation to fit around steam pipes. After cutting this insulation, insulators often stretched it open and slipped it over the pipe. Finally, the insulation was fastened securely with asbestos-containing adhesive, staples, tape, or wire bands.

The cutting, opening, and fastening of the insulation over the pipe all released microscopic fibers into the air. When breathed in, these fibers could remain the lungs for several years before developing into mesothelioma or other asbestos-related cancers. Further increasing the danger for insulators was the enclosed nature of the jobsites that they often worked in, even if they themselves were not working with products that contained asbestos. For example, a carpenter using materials that contained asbestos may have caused insulators to be exposed to dangerous asbestos fibers.

While the use of asbestos was discontinued by the 1980s, asbestos still remains in many buildings and homes today. Quite often, pipe insulation that contains asbestos is crumbly, making it dangerous because fibers are then easily released into the air. The most common form of loose-fill attic insulation is Zonolite, which was installed in millions of homes.

Insulation products that contained asbestos include:

  • Pipe covering;
  • Block;
  • Cement;
  • Felt;
  • Board;
  • Coating;
  • Seals; and
  • Tapes.

Before beginning a renovation or remodeling project, it is important to make sure asbestos is not in a place which may be disturbed. If you suspect that products that will be affected by the work contain asbestos, you should contact an expert in asbestos identification and removal to ensure your safety.

Compassionate Legal Advocacy

If you worked as an insulator and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer, you should speak to a mesothelioma and asbestos-related disease attorney as soon as possible. At the Throneberry Law Group, we have personal experience in understanding the difficulty of dealing with these issues. We look forward to hearing from you.

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