Asbestos Ducts and HVAC Workers
HVAC workers have been unknowingly disturbing the asbestos fibers found in asbestos ducts, and other HVAC parts and places where they work, which they have been breathed in or carrying on their skin and clothing. HVAC workers are at high risk for contracting mesothelioma, or other lung diseases.
How Are HVAC Workers Developing Mesothelioma?
Whether on a rooftop, in a building’s basement mechanical room, or near a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning unit, HVAC workers frequently run the risk of cutting, opening, or disturbing asbestos fibers that were concealed by accidentally moving particles into the air and onto surrounding surfaces. An HVAC worker’s everyday duties could potentially expose them to asbestos fibers in a variety of different areas and locations within one workplace. Since technicians are working around equipment that is at a higher temperature, many parts use asbestos to protect against the heat, incidentally exposing workers to the carcinogen.
When HVAC workers work around equipment and products made with asbestos, they run the risk of disturbing the fibers while doing maintenance and unknowingly put the asbestos fibers into the air to be breathed in and carried home on their clothes. Even if asbestos is inhaled in small amounts over time, this kind of exposure often leads to mesothelioma, one of the deadliest cancers on earth, which has an incubation period that can take up to 60 years.
Asbestos Products Associated with HVAC Workers
During the manufacturing of many boilermakers, asbestos was added to help protect the product from heat damage and keep the item structurally sound. Inevitably, this puts HVAC workers the most at risk as they are the ones that not only install these units but also fix and repair them. Because of the popularity of asbestos use for heat-resistant purposes, HVAC workers are likely exposed to asbestos more often than not. Today, asbestos can still be found in these parts and products:
- HVAC vibration dampeners: A product that reduces vibrations that could cause damage to the system that without it could cause damage. The white, silver, or gray fabric material was woven with asbestos. If you see one attached to your HVAC unit, don’t remove, pierce, or tear it during an inspection.
- Asbestos pipes: Pipes in some buildings have asbestos insulation. They can come in the form of gray or white asbestos paper or look like plaster on irregular components like elbows and valves.
- Asbestos gaskets: Gaskets are used to join two surfaces together to create a sealant so whatever is passing through the two doesn’t leak out. Although most asbestos gaskets have been substituted with other similar heat-resistant products, some chrysotile asbestos gaskets are being used.
- Adhesives: Some adhesives such as caulk and spray-on sealants may have asbestos in them.
- Asbestos papers: This product was used as an insulation wrap on air ducts to help seal heating or cooling inside the ducts. The paper can be found wrapped on indoor and outdoor units, and homes built in the early 1900s, that are still being inhabited, are more likely to have them still around.
Where Are Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning Workers Exposed?
HVAC workers are often exposed in locations where they are doing maintenance or repair work such as a basement, rooftop, or other enclosed rooms. If a worker has to cut through any material to reach an HVAC unit in need of repair, this is the most likely way to release they may come into contact with asbestos. From there, HVAC workers can accidentally take those asbestos fibers home to their family and friends, exposing them secondhand.
Secondhand exposure can be just as deadly as firsthand exposure to asbestos. It can cause asbestosis, which is a lung disease also caused by inhaling asbestos. Asbestosis is known to scar the lungs. People with asbestosis are highly likely to later contract mesothelioma in their life considering they were most likely exposed long-term. it’s important to keep tabs on where asbestos is found on a job site and in the HVAC industry as a whole. The following list of working environments that contain asbestos includes:
- Asbestos walls: Asbestos in walls was primarily used when they were in close proximity to wood-burning stoves, but has been known to be used in military bases and near HVAC units too. Its ability to withstand high temperatures was ideal in those areas.
- Asbestos flooring: Similar to asbestos walls, asbestos flooring was used for the same reasons. It could give a certain level of fireproofing and heat resistance. Some indoor areas where HVAC units are located have asbestos flooring.
- Asbestos ceiling tiles: These can be found in churches, schools, performance halls, and more. They don’t necessarily pose a threat when they aren’t disturbed, but once they’ve been cut or broken during maintenance or repairs, the asbestos fibers can float in the air and stick to clothes.
- Asbestos insulation: The insulation industry is known for using asbestos for noise and temperature control. For an HVAC worker, it ensures temperatures are staying even and making sure there is no condensation. When the heating is on, the asbestos insulation allows the machine to handle high levels of heat.
- Roofing tar: The addition of asbestos to tar used for roofing homes and buildings strengthened the product. Therefore, the durability of each roof that was being produced was higher. Some buildings have their units on the roof and HVAC workers could come in contact with them.
- Roofing shingles: Similar to roofing tar, shingles could sometimes have asbestos in them. They don’t pose a health hazard if they are on the home, but once they start to fall off or need repairs, make sure you are contacting a licensed asbestos contractor to take care of your home. If HVAC workers see shingles falling off they should notify the building or homeowners.
- Asbestos Ducts: The purpose of heat ducts is to heat and cool a structure and to take the air and disperse it throughout. Some ducts can have asbestos paper wrap or tape which helps with insulating the unit while it transfers the heat. HVAC workers may come in contact with an asbestos duct when working on an HVAC unit.
Protecting Heating and Ventilation Workers From Asbestos Exposure
The risk of exposure to asbestos fibers is high for HVAC workers since they could work in direct contact with asbestos products. These workers should consider using the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect themselves when needed. Follow these tips to ensure you’re protected from asbestos exposure and prevent mesothelioma or related lung cancer:
- When removing or cutting asbestos parts, wear a respirator, disposable gloves, disposable coveralls, and any other protective clothing deemed necessary.
- When possible, use mini-enclosures to minimize the area where asbestos fibers can flow.
- Use a HEPA vacuum to suck up particles of asbestos after maintenance or repair on an HVAC system.
- Use the wet cleaning method to clean surfaces that may have asbestos on them after maintenance or repair of an HVAC system.
Since not all HVAC work involves disturbing asbestos parts, PPE is needed on a case-by-case basis. Determining when to use PPE is up to the asbestos project manager who runs the operations and maintenance program (O&M). An O&M program is required to be available to workers by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). If an employer is telling you to enter an area without proper PPE, you should refuse to complete that job.
Legal Options for HVAC Workers Exposed on the Job
If you are unsure if you are eligible for asbestos-related legal compensation, let us help you find an answer. The journey with a mesothelioma diagnosis can be difficult, and finding the best treatment options and it being affordable is hard. There are multiple options for filing a claim for your asbestos exposure. Personal injury lawsuits allow those affected by mesothelioma to hold companies liable for their unlawful asbestos exposure. HVAC workers are part of a group of industries that have been exposed to asbestos because of their employers. These lawsuits can only be filed by the person affected by the harmful exposure, unlike a wrongful death claim which is filed by a spouse or family member after the fact.
Some HVAC companies have an asbestos trust fund, which is used to pay out their company’s asbestos lawsuits. Large companies took on the initiative to set up a trust fund because their company was facing hundreds or thousands of asbestos lawsuits because of wrongful exposure to their employees. You can file a claim for an asbestos trust fund by:
- Establishing your eligibility.
- Retrieving relevant information regarding your exposure and subsequent diagnosis.
- Filing the claim with the help of an attorney.
After finishing those steps, you will wait for your claim to be reviewed. Then, if you chose to do an individual review, negotiations into how much your payout will take place.
If you file an asbestos claim for worker’s compensation, be prepared to be asked if you know for sure that you were exposed to asbestos while working for your employer. You may be asked to prove the following:
- You are an HVAC employee of the company you are filling workers’ compensation from.
- The illness or disease is a result of working at the company.
- Your diagnosis from a doctor or other medical professionals.
- Your claim is within the statute of limitations for your state.
It is important to know your rights as a worker, and if you believe your mesothelioma diagnosis is a result of working around an HVAC system you should consult a lawyer. Finding an attorney to defend your asbestos case shouldn’t be complicated. Start by doing some research as to who are the best asbestos litigators in your area or even those who will work with you across state lines. Consider what your budget is and keep that in mind when contacting someone to defend your case. If your case is successful, some cases have been able to pay out millions of dollars.
Mesothelioma Treatment for HVAC Workers
While you are waiting for your claim to go through the court process, you should seek out the best medical care for your diagnosis from a mesothelioma medical center. The US is home to some of the top mesothelioma and lung cancer hospitals. These medical centers are known for having experts in treating multiple types of mesothelioma and continuing the research to find new treatments. Many of these doctors also hold clinical trials year-round to learn more about the disease and how they can get ahead of it.
If you are an HVAC worker who knows they have been exposed to asbestos or are questioning if they have been exposed, find out if you are eligible for compensation using the above information. Your life is valued, and you should take action to be awarded for your losses. Our Patient Advocates have over 60 years of experience and can walk you through what next steps you need to take today.