Insulators and Asbestos Exposure
Heat and frost insulators are at high risk of developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases because of their occupation.
Heat and Frost Insulators Asbestos and Mesothelioma Risks
Occupational heat and frost insulators face a significant danger of contracting mesothelioma and other diseases linked to asbestos exposure due to the nature of their work. Asbestos insulation, the primary danger for insulators, was produced and used as late as the 1990s and some of those products are still found in homes and buildings today.
Being exposed to asbestos is known to cause significant health risks, including life-threatening cancers like mesothelioma and lung cancer. Insulators working in this occupation can still be exposed to asbestos products and fibers accidentally released into the air. Some insulation contaminated with asbestos may still be in buildings as insulation only needs to be replaced every 15 to 20 years, which is all the more alarming considering mesothelioma’s latency timeline. Workers may encounter asbestos insulation while replacing or removing the material and should protect themselves with proper personal protective equipment (PPE). This article will cover the important risk factors and safety health measures insulators should be aware of in the field.
Why Was Asbestos Used in Insulation?
The main reason asbestos was used in insulation was because of its strength and heat resistance. Insulation’s purpose is to control the heat from coming and going throughout a structure, providing energy efficiency. Using asbestos in insulation allowed for greater control of heat inside the house and provided an extra layer of protection in case a fire was started. Asbestos doesn’t typically catch fire easily and homeowners may have requested use of it as a layer of defense in case the house caught flame.
What wasn’t known at the time of asbestos insulation’s popularity was its health side effects. Consistently breathing asbestos fibers without proper PPE resulted in workers developing respiratory issues and cancer without their knowledge. Once asbestos is inhaled, it remains lodged in the throat and lining of the lungs creating health issues such as mesothelioma and asbestosis.
Types of Asbestos Insulation
Asbestos insulation can be separated into three types. Block insulation, loose-fill insulation, and spray-on insulation are all forms of asbestos insulation that were used to line the walls, attics, and ceilings of buildings and homes until the 1990s. Some of these insulations may be found in structures still. It is a poignant reminder of the lasting legacy of materials that were once heralded for their utility but are now approached with a heightened awareness because of their associated health risks.
Asbestos Block Insulation
Block insulation involves gluing a roll or block of insulation onto a structure’s walls, ceiling, or attic. Most block insulation is made with vermiculite, a mineral mined. Infamously, a mine in Libby, Montana was mining asbestos-contaminated vermiculite up until 1990 causing widespread production and health issues. Block insulation is one of the simplest methods of adding insulation and can be done relatively quickly. Exposure to asbestos with this method may have happened through direct contact with the skin and breathing in the disturbed airborne fibers.
Loose-Fill Asbestos Insulation
In the realm of insulation, loose-fill stands out as a distinctive technique, entailing the pouring or adeptly blowing of material into the targeted insulating zones. This method found its niche in spaces requiring insulation yet grappling with limited access, navigating even the most constricted of confines. However, this convenience came at a grave price, as laborers who undertook this approach without appropriate safeguards placed themselves at considerable risk of asbestos exposure. The seemingly innocuous action of pouring or blowing asbestos facilitated the uninterrupted mobility of asbestos fibers throughout the room, casting a shadow of potential harm.
Spray-On Asbestos Insulation
Spray-on insulation is typically used on steel and other structures needing protection from fires. Adding a layer of protection using asbestos created a level of fireproofing that wasn’t present before. The action of spraying the material onto the steelwork also blew the asbestos around the area. Workers could have easily inhaled asbestos into their body if they weren’t wearing a respirator or protective mask. After application, the insulation could easily be redistributed creating a hazard for people frequenting those areas.
Product Manufacturers Who Made Asbestos Insulators
There were many manufacturers in the United States who produced asbestos insulation products and did not advise workers using the products of its dangers. Many affected occupational workers filed lawsuits were filed against these companies as people were being diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis, and other asbestos-related diseases as a direct result of being unlawfully exposed.
Anco Products, formerly known as Anco Insulations Inc., was among the manufacturers with multiple lawsuits filed against them. A handful of their lawsuits were the defendants claiming they were not given proper warning from Anco about the health risks associated with asbestos exposure. Anco’s insulation products were known to have asbestos in them and they were ultimately found liable for multiple lawsuits resulting in large payouts.
A.P. Green Industries is another manufacturer known to have produced asbestos insulation products, among other items, from 1947 through 1972. As a result of many impending lawsuits, they filed for bankruptcy in 2002 and eventually created an asbestos trust fund. The company was well aware of the dangers of inhaling asbestos without proper PPE, yet they chose not to disclose this to their employees.
Asbestos Insulation Products
Any number of insulation products could have had asbestos in them. This could include pipe coverings, spray foam, vermiculite, fiberglass, cellulose, and insulation facings contamination. The insulation pipe coverings often contained asbestos to assist with keeping the heat in so hot water could be transferred with ease. The spray foam, which can be used when insulating hard-to-reach areas, is used to contain asbestos as a heat protectant. Vermiculite is a type of insulation that is known to have been contaminated before and could still be found in some attics. Fiberglass, cellulose, and insulation facings could all contain asbestos because of their proximity to other products containing asbestos.
Financial Compensation for Insulators Exposed to Asbestos
By filing lawsuits against the manufacturers responsible for unlawfully exposing many workers to asbestos, people have been able to seek compensation to help with the expenses of their medical costs, among other items. Financial compensation can come from multiple lawsuits, including asbestos trust funds, personal injury, and wrongful death cases.
What you file can depend on how you were exposed, what your diagnosis is, and the severity of the disease. Compensation can help you or a loved one pay for lost wages, medical bills, and other weekly expenses. Statute of limitations do apply for lawsuits, so filing your case as soon as possible is important to secure your claims payout compensation. While you are waiting to receive your compensation, you should seek support from others experiencing the same process. The International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers can be a place to start and hear stories from other insulators who are experiencing the same reality.