Plumbers and pipefitters have made vital contributions to the construction industry, playing a pivotal role in building and maintaining critical infrastructure worldwide. Their expertise extends from residential plumbing systems to complex industrial pipelines, making them indispensable in various sectors.
However, amid their important work, plumbers and pipefitters have faced significant risks related to asbestos exposure, posing potential threats to their health and well-being.
The extensive use of asbestos-containing materials in construction and insulation during the 20th century exposed these skilled workers to harmful asbestos fibers, leading to severe health consequences and the emergence of life-threatening diseases.
For individuals who worked as plumbers or pipefitters – and their family members – there are avenues available for compensation as a result of the working conditions they suffered, which exposed them to toxic asbestos fibers and resulted in asbestos diseases like mesothelioma.
Lawsuits And Compensation For Plumbers and Pipefitters
Asbestos trusts have been created to provide financial compensation to individuals and families impacted by asbestos exposure. This compensation aims to alleviate the financial burdens of medical expenses, bills, and living costs. The amount of compensation offered depends on factors such as the timing and severity of the diagnosis.
To access this compensation, asbestos victims must submit a claim to the appropriate asbestos trust. These trusts play a vital role in protecting the financial well-being of victims and their families, offering support to mitigate the financial challenges caused by mesothelioma and other asbestos-related health conditions.
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Why Was Asbestos Used By Plumbers?
Four of the main reasons why asbestos was used by plumbers are as follows:
Asbestos is highly heat-resistant, making it an ideal material for insulating pipes and other plumbing components. It helped prevent the loss of heat in hot water pipes, ensuring efficient heat distribution in buildings and industrial settings.
Asbestos has exceptional fireproofing properties, making it an attractive choice for enhancing fire safety in buildings. Asbestos-containing materials were used to insulate pipes, protecting them from potential fire hazards and reducing the risk of fire spreading through plumbing systems.
Asbestos provided effective thermal insulation, which was crucial for both hot and cold water pipes. By using asbestos-containing materials, plumbers could prevent condensation and maintain the desired temperature of the water within the plumbing system.
Asbestos was valued for its durability and longevity, making it a cost-effective choice for plumbers. Asbestos-containing materials could withstand corrosion and deterioration over time, ensuring that plumbing systems remained functional for extended periods, reducing the need for frequent replacements or repairs.
How Plumbers and Pipefitters Were Exposed to Asbestos
Plumbers were exposed to asbestos primarily through their work with asbestos-containing materials commonly used in the construction and maintenance of plumbing systems. Some of the main ways plumbers were exposed to asbestos include:
- Pipe Insulation – Asbestos was frequently used as pipe insulation to regulate temperature and prevent heat loss. When installing, repairing, or removing pipes with asbestos insulation, plumbers could inhale asbestos fibers released into the air.
- Gaskets and Packing – Asbestos-containing gaskets and packing materials were used to seal joints and connections in plumbing systems. When working with these materials, plumbers could inadvertently disturb and release asbestos fibers, leading to potential exposure.
- Boiler Insulation – Plumbers who worked on industrial or commercial boilers often encountered asbestos-containing insulation. Repairing or maintaining these boilers could lead to asbestos fiber release if the insulation was damaged or disturbed.
- Pipe Cement and Adhesives – Asbestos was sometimes present in the cement and adhesives used to connect pipes and fittings. Cutting or handling these materials could release asbestos dust into the air.
- Older Plumbing Fixtures – In buildings constructed before asbestos regulations were implemented, older plumbing fixtures and components may have contained asbestos. Repairing or replacing these fixtures could expose plumbers to asbestos fibers.
- Demolition and Renovation – Plumbers involved in demolition or renovation projects of older buildings might encounter asbestos-containing materials such as insulation, roofing, or tiles, which could release fibers during removal.
- Poor Ventilation – Inadequate ventilation in confined spaces, like crawl spaces or utility rooms, could concentrate asbestos fibers, increasing the risk of exposure for plumbers working in these areas.
It is essential for plumbers to understand that they may have been previously exposed to asbestos, particularly if they worked in older buildings.
Plumbers and Pipefitters – Asbestos-Related News, Research and Compensation
Over recent decades, research studies have analyzed the impact of asbestos on plumbers and pipefitters. Compensation has also been awarded to individuals who were diagnosed with mesothelioma as a result of their work as plumbers or pipefitters.
- In 1985, a prevalence study was conducted on 153 plumbers and pipefitters in building construction to assess asbestos-related diseases. The major finding revealed bilateral pleural thickening in 28 participants (18.3%) and unilateral pleural thickening in 12 subjects (7.8%). Additionally, small irregular opacities were found in 12 subjects (7.8%), with bilateral pleural thickening associated with age and time since first asbestos exposure, and unilateral pleural thickening associated only with age.
- The Annals of Occupational Hygiene published a study in 2007, revealing a notable risk of asbestos exposure to maintenance workers, including plumbers, when dealing with asbestos-containing materials during their work. The study highlighted that inadequate removal, cleanup, and clearance practices posed significant risks to plumbers working in areas presumed to be asbestos-free. In the initial round of testing, 62% of industrial plumbers were exposed to a substantial amount of asbestos fibers.
- A study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology in 2018 emphasized that former plumbers represent one of the highest-risk groups for asbestos-related diseases. British researchers found that plumbers are nearly 16 times more susceptible to developing mesothelioma compared to the general population, based on the data collected.\
- In 2021, a former welder and pipefitter received an extraordinary $36.7 million in damages. The jury held Level 3 Holdings, Inc. (formerly Peter Kiewit Sons’ Co) and twenty other Louisiana-based companies responsible for the victim’s mesothelioma. He was exposed to asbestos during his work as a pipefitter in the 1960s and 1970s.
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- National Library of Medicine, “Asbestos-related disease in plumbers and pipefitters employed in building construction”. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3877801/
- Annals of Work Exposures and Health, “Exposure of UK Industrial Plumbers to Asbestos, Part I: Monitoring of Exposure Using Personal Passive Samplers”. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/annweh/article/51/2/121/212213
- International Journal of Epidemiology, “Past and current asbestos exposure and future mesothelioma risks in Britain: The Inhaled Particles Study (TIPS)”. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/ije/article/47/6/1745/4925430.
- BusinessWire, “Baron & Budd Obtains Largest Asbestos Related Judgment in Louisiana”. Retrieved from https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20220603005429/en/Baron-Budd-Obtains-Largest-Asbestos-Related-Judgment-in-Louisiana