Risk of Asbestos Exposure for Plumbers and Pipefitters
Plumbers and pipefitters, particularly those who worked between the 1940s and 1980s, are at increased risk of exposure to asbestos due to the specific materials that they dealt with as a result of their occupation. This exposure puts these individuals at risk of developing mesothelioma and other serious asbestos-related diseases. While the use of asbestos was discontinued decades ago, new cases of asbestos-related disease continue to be diagnosed today.
Plumbers and Pipefitters
Pipefitters are responsible for the design, installation, and repair of pipe systems in large commercial buildings or manufacturing facilities. For smaller projects like residential homes, similar work is performed by what is known as a plumber, as opposed to a pipefitter. However, for both pipefitters and plumbers, these pipe systems transport water, steam, air, gas, and human waste. Pipefitters and plumbers require specialized knowledge due to the high pressure that the pipes are placed under.
For much of the twentieth century, asbestos was the preferred material to be used with pipe systems due to its high heat and fire resistance. Asbestos was commonly used as thermal insulation for pipes, boilers, ducts, and tanks. Pipefitters and plumbers may have also been exposed while using repair materials. These materials included joint compounds, cement, valves, gaskets, pipe coating, and welding rods.
Further increasing exposure risk was the often very close quarters in which pipefitters and plumbers worked. While working in very tight spaces, any asbestos fibers released into the air were more likely to be breathed in. Fibers were very often released when cutting, sawing, or sanding asbestos paper to fit a particular application. This also occurred when pipes or other products containing asbestos were cut or drilled to fit specific dimensions.
Most pipe insulation took the form of either air cell (which may refer to either a brand name or a generic term for insulation) or block insulation. Air cell was used to wrap air supply ducts and may also be known as Asbestocel or Carcycel. Block insulation was a combination of asbestos and binders that, together, formed large blocks for insulation. Some forms of block insulation included Amosite sheeting and asbestos sponge felt.
Dangers of Exposure
Disturbing asbestos releases microscopic fibers into the air that, when breathed in, may remain in the lungs for several years or, in some cases, decades before the harmful effects become apparent. While many of the diagnosed cases of asbestos-related disease resulted from exposure during the period before the 1980s, asbestos can still be dangerous today. While asbestos use has long been discontinued, it was not removed from all buildings. Therefore, it is important to contact a professional before beginning a remodeling or renovation project of a home or building that may contain asbestos.
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or an asbestos related cancer, you should speak with an experienced attorney as soon as possible. At the Throneberry Law Group, we fight for victims of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.