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Welders Asbestos Exposure

Welders have historically worked in industrial environments where asbestos products were routinely used. They also handled asbestos directly when using welding rods, protective clothing, and chemical compounds. The companies responsible for welders’ asbestos exposure knew about the dangers but failed to alert them or provide protection. Consequently, welders with mesothelioma or other asbestos-related illnesses may be entitled to compensation.

The Lanier Law Firm helps welders and former welders with occupational asbestos exposure and their family members with secondary asbestos exposure recover significant compensation from companies that wrongfully exposed them to asbestos. Beginning as early as 1930, asbestos companies knew asbestos was harmful but actively concealed it to protect profits. 

Welding Professions with Asbestos Exposure

Welders are specialized ironworkers who use a combination of gasses and electricity to fuse two or more metals together in a variety of industrial settings where asbestos may be present, including the following:

factory worker

Welders who worked prior to 1980 experienced the highest asbestos exposure. Welders were exposed to asbestos while working in the following welding occupations:

  • Pipefitters
  • Cutters
  • Solderers
  • Brazers
  • Sheet metal welders
  • Metal Inert Gas (MIG) welders
  • Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welders
  • Stick welders
  • Flux welders

How are welders exposed to asbestos?

Welders may be exposed to asbestos while disturbing microscopic asbestos fibers during the following activities:

  • Welding
  • Removing insulation
  • Cutting insulated electrical wire
  • Repairing boilers
  • Working in close proximity to workers who handle asbestos

Welders wear hoods and respirators for protection from metal particles, but these are not designed to provide protection from asbestos fibers.

Welding Rods

Welding rods, also known as welding electrodes, use a combination of electrical current and high temperatures to melt one metal onto another metal during stick welding applications. Before 1980, welding rods were spray-coated with friable asbestos, which is the most dangerous form because it can become airborne by touching it.

A study by ChemRisk, Inc. of San Francisco found that airborne asbestos fibers may be destroyed at the extreme temperatures of 6,500 degrees Fahrenheit, which are reached during stick welding. This reduces the asbestos in the immediate environment to a level that is lower than OSHA’s permissible exposure limit of 0.1 fiber per cubic centimeter, but it does not eliminate it entirely.

However, no level of asbestos is safe, and significant amounts of asbestos could be released while welding rods were handled outside of welding.

Personal Protective Equipment

The combination of high temperatures and sparks created during most welding processes necessitated fire and heat protection for welders and their equipment. Asbestos was easily woven into textiles due to its flexibility and tensile strength, and it made fabrics virtually fireproof. As a result, asbestos could be found in the following protective products for welders:

  • Welding blankets
  • Welding aprons
  • Welding gloves

As these products became worn with use or if they were damaged, asbestos was released into the environment and onto the clothing of welders, which they may have worn home, causing their family members to experience secondary asbestos exposure.

Sheet Metal

While sheet metal itself does not contain asbestos, it may be coated with asbestos or connected to asbestos products, such as adhesives, caulking, sealants, electrical wiring, electric motors, and machines. Sheet metal welding was used in the following industrial applications

  • Roofing
  • Aerospace engineering
  • Automotive parts
  • Manufacturing
  • Agriculture

Industrial Compounds

Asbestos provided strength and flexibility to numerous industrial compounds, including the following:

  • Adhesives
  • Coatings
  • Cement
  • Sealants
  • Joint compound

These products have been used in welding machines, welding rods, and equipment that welders service, such as the following:

  • Boilers
  • Automobiles
  • Aerospace equipment
  • Marine vessels
  • Commercial building components  

Industrial Machines and Metal Pipes

Welders have played an important role in the fabrication, installation, and maintenance of industrial machinery and pipes. Pipefitter welders service high-pressure mechanical piping systems including the following:

  • Boilers and other heating and cooling equipment
  • Industrial plumbing systems
  • Manufacturing systems
  • Hydraulics
  • Fuel systems
  • Chemical equipment

Industrial machinery such as boilers and conveyors contain metal components that are integrated with electrical systems and the piping, both of which may have been insulated with asbestos. Welders were likely to encounter asbestos in valves, gaskets, and flanges while servicing piping systems and machinery. The piping itself may also have been insulated with asbestos.

Industrial machines and piping are often expensive to replace. As a result, many companies repair rather than replace equipment. Welders who service this equipment could still be exposed to asbestos today and at risk of developing mesothelioma.

Construction Materials

Welders play important roles in the construction industry, particularly in commercial, industrial, and infrastructure applications. They may have encountered asbestos while performing the following duties:

  • Creating or repairing electrical conduits
  • Installing or repairing plumbing lines
  • Installing ventilation lines
  • Installing gas supply pipes

Marine Vessels

Welders were needed on civilian and military ships for the building and repair of components such as boilers, machinery, motors, electrical wiring, and pipes. Asbestos was used in all of these components and in the compounds used to fasten them. As a result, welders were exposed to significant levels of asbestos while fabricating, installing, or repairing this equipment onboard and in shipyards.

Welders may also have been indirectly exposed to asbestos just by being present on ships because asbestos was used for insulation and waterproofing in the walls and hull of the ship. Some of these ships are still in use today.

Companies That Exposed Welders to Asbestos

The following companies exposed welders to asbestos through employment or by supplying asbestos products to their employers:

  • Carlisle Companies
  • Caterpillar, Inc.
  • Citgo Petroleum Corporation
  • ConocoPhillips Petroleum
  • Cummons, Inc.
  • Daimler Trucks North America
  • ECR International
  • Eaton Electric, Inc.
  • Elliott Turbomachinery
  • Emerson Electric Company
  • Ford Motor Company
  • Garlock Sealing Technologies
  • General Electric
  • John Crane
  • Johns Manville
  • Johnson Controls, Inc.
  • L&L Boiler Maintenance, Inc.
  • Lennox Industries, Inc.
  • Lincoln Electric
  • Mack Trucks
  • Nagle Pump, Inc.
  • PACCAR, Inc.
  • Riley Power, Inc.
  • Shell Oil Company
  • Superior Boiler Works
  • Texaco, Inc.
  • The Nash Engineering Company
  • Tyco International
  • U.S. Steel Corporation
  • Zurn Industries

Boiler companies used asbestos heavily throughout their machines and in the piping used in boiler rooms and ventilation systems. Welders that spent substantial time working in boiler rooms may have experienced significant asbestos exposure.

What are the health effects of welders’ asbestos exposure?

A 2017 study in Safety and Health at Work found that welders have an elevated risk of developing lung cancer and mesothelioma. While lung cancer may have multiple contributing factors, it is one of the most common health effects of asbestos exposure. Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma.

How can The Lanier Law Firm help welders diagnosed with mesothelioma?

If you have ever worked as a welder and have developed mesothelioma, asbestosis, or any other asbestos-related illness, occupational asbestos exposure may be to blame. We can help you file the following types of mesothelioma claims:

We are nationally recognized attorneys who have been standing up for workers who were wrongfully exposed to asbestos for more than 25 years. Our law firm has won nearly $20 billion in verdicts and settlements for injured individuals, and we have the resources to help welders get justice and recover the compensation they need and deserve. Contact The Lanier Law Firm today for a free case evaluation.

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