Plumbers and Asbestos Exposure

Plumbers have a risk of exposure to asbestos, especially if they work on buildings built before the 1980s. Exposure can lead to serious illnesses, including asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.

Asbestos exposure poses a risk to plumbers, even those who started working after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) partially banned the use of asbestos in products in 1989. The EPA did not require the removal of asbestos already in buildings, and a lawsuit prevented the EPA from banning all asbestos products.

As a result, most plumbers have knowingly or unknowingly been around asbestos on at least one job during their careers. If you work on buildings more than about 30 years old or spend significant time welding with older equipment, you may have been exposed to asbestos.

If you are a plumber who was exposed to asbestos and contracted an asbestos-related disease, you may be eligible for compensation.

Occupational Asbestos Exposure for Plumbers

Asbestos is an insulator, fire retardant, and non-corrosive that was used frequently in buildings before the 1980s. In the plumbing industry, asbestos was used in many plumbing products:

  • Pipe insulation and blocks
  • Welding rods and protective equipment
  • Cement powder
  • Asbestos thermal paper
  • Gaskets

Plumbers can also become exposed when working on plumbing embedded in asbestos-lined walls, floors, and ceilings. The highest risk comes from working on older plumbing in enclosed spaces with poor ventilation.

Plumbers do not need to work directly with asbestos to get exposed, however. Asbestos exposure can happen from other parts of a building as well:

Adhesives and sealants

Roof coatings and liners

Cement

Drywall

Floor tiles

How long do you have to be exposed to asbestos for it to affect you?

You usually need heavy and prolonged exposure to asbestos to develop asbestosis, lung cancer, or mesothelioma. The exact amount of exposure that causes these diseases will vary from person to person, however. Brief exposure to high levels of asbestos can cause just as much damage as long exposure to low levels of asbestos.

Asbestos Product Manufacturers

Many companies made products that contained asbestos, ranging from oven mitts to brake pads. As a result, many manufacturers bear liability for asbestos exposure.

Manufacturers that made asbestos products include:
  • American Standard, Inc.
  • Aqua-Chem, Inc.
  • Armstrong World Industries, Inc.
  • Bondex International, Inc.
  • Crane Co.
  • Forty-Eight Insulations
  • General Electric Company
  • Ingersoll-Rand
  • Keene Corporation
  • National Gypsum Company
  • Owens-Corning Fiberglass Corporation
  • U.S. Gypsum Company
  • U.S. Mineral

After receiving an abundance of lawsuits, some of these companies filed bankruptcy under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Code and established trust funds to pay current and future asbestos claims. For example, the Armstrong World Industries Asbestos Trust was created to resolve claims; it started accepting claims in 2007.

Health Risks of Asbestos to Plumbers

Asbestos is a mineral consisting of silicate crystals that have long, thin fibers. When you inhale a certain amount of asbestos, the crystalline fibers get embedded in your lung tissue, chest lining (also called the pleural lining), and abdominal lining (also called the peritoneum). The body is not able to break down these firm, heat-resistant asbestos fibers, and they cannot be removed.

Asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma can result from asbestos exposure. Asbestosis is diagnosed much more frequently than lung cancer and mesothelioma, but all three diseases can cause debilitating or even fatal symptoms.

Asbestosis

Asbestosis occurs when the fibers create a build-up of scar tissue in the lungs. Over time, this causes the lung tissue to become stiff to a point where the lungs struggle to contract and expand. Mayo Clinic shares the signs of asbestosis: shortness of breath, dry cough, chest tightness, and dry and crackling sounds in your lungs.

Lung Cancer

After great exposure to asbestos, you can develop lung cancer. Most often, the cancer occurs at least 15 years after the first exposure. If you also smoke, the risk of lung cancer increases.

Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer. It most often affects the tissue that surrounds the linings of the organs in the chest and abdomen. If left untreated, it can spread throughout your body. Symptoms of mesothelioma include fever or night sweats, dry cough, fatigue, chest or abdominal pain, and weakness in the muscles.

The danger with mesothelioma is that these tumors usually do not cause symptoms until later. As a result, you could have cancerous cells spreading through your body without even knowing it. By the time a person is diagnosed with mesothelioma, it has usually progressed to an advanced state that often results in death.

Treatment for Asbestos Conditions

Asbestos-causing conditions take time to develop, often decades after the initial asbestos exposure. Unfortunately, there is no cure, only options for treatment to relieve symptoms and slow progression.

Oxygen therapy

  • Pulmonary rehabilitation
  • Cessation of smoking
  • Lung transplant for serious cases

Lung Cancer

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Palliative therapy

Mesothelioma

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Immunotherapy

These illnesses can require costly and ongoing care. Unfortunately, many cases get caught too late for treatment, but you may still need therapy and medication to live comfortably. If your exposure to asbestos resulted in one of these illnesses, reach out to The Lanier Law Firm to discuss the compensation you may be entitled to.

Asbestos Safety

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), certain health and safety regulations should be implemented to reduce the risk of asbestos exposure:

If your employer did not or does not provide these safety measures despite knowing of asbestos on a job site, you may have a claim for negligence.

How do you prove exposure to asbestos?

Various mechanisms exist today to detect asbestos in a person who has been exposed:

  • Chest x-rays
  • Lung function tests
  • Lung biopsy
  • Bronchoscopy

If you experience symptoms of asbestos exposure, it’s important to let your primary care doctor know as soon as possible. They will order the necessary tests to confirm the presence of asbestos and illness (or the prognosis for developing illness) and implement a treatment plan with consultation from an asbestos medical expert.

Compensation Available for Plumber Asbestos Exposure

You may be eligible to file a lawsuit against the business that supplied the products to which you were exposed or the employer who knowingly caused you to become exposed.

The Lanier Law Firm has handled many types of asbestos exposure cases. Our attorneys possess the necessary knowledge, skill, and resources to help you recover compensation. To discuss the claims you may have for your asbestos-related illness, contact The Lanier Law Firm for a free case evaluation.

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