Aerospace Workers, Aircraft Mechanics, and Asbestos Exposure
Asbestos is a lightweight, strong mineral fiber that helps create heat and fireproof materials with good soundproofing qualities. Given all these benefits, asbestos was a natural fit for the aerospace and aircraft industries. Though it made spacecraft and aircraft perform better, asbestos threatened the health of factory and repair workers exposed to its fibers.
Asbestos in Aircraft
Asbestos was used throughout aircraft, including the engine compartment, brakes, cockpit, and components holding the plane together. Whether the aircraft was being built, maintained, or repaired, workers could be exposed to mesothelioma-causing asbestos fibers when they handled:
- Fabrics, Gloves, Blankets, and Cloth: Mechanics used asbestos-containing safety gear. Textiles and blankets with asbestos protected workers and helped prevent fires
- Brakes: Brake components on landing gear contained asbestos because of their heat resistance and strength
- Engine Mounts, Heat Shields, and Shrouds: These parts posed an exposure risk if they were damaged and released fibers into the air
- Valves, Gaskets, and Other Parts: Before the 1980s, asbestos was essential to gaskets (seals between machined parts, torque valves (which open and close in a given pressure range), refractory fiber felt (used as high-temperature insulation), cockpit heating systems and tapes used to create seals
- Repair Equipment: They include adhesives and epoxies used as a structural glue
- Insulation: It was used for electrical equipment, firewalls, and thermal and acoustic insulation in cargo bays
Those around aerospace workers and aircraft mechanics could also breathe in asbestos fibers released in the workplace.
Asbestos in Spacecraft
Asbestos is lightweight and resistant to caustic chemicals, heat, fire, and electricity. Asbestos was widely used when spacecraft were first developed up until the 1980s. Those assembling spacecraft were exposed to asbestos fibers because asbestos-containing products were essential to their operational success.
Asbestos was used to prevent fuel leaks and damage to other components. It was also a component of early ablative heat shields that protected astronauts in Mercury, Gemini, Apollo spacecraft, and earlier space shuttles from the heat of re-entry.
These highly skilled workers are responsible for the safety of those using aircraft. They maintain and repair all military, commercial, and private aircraft types. Asbestos exposure usually took place when asbestos-containing parts were removed and replaced.
The most significant exposure probably occurred when mechanics worked on brakes. Aircraft land at high speed, and braking causes tremendous heat. Asbestos was used in landing gear brake components before the 1980s to handle these temperatures. Replacing brake pads could be very difficult, physical labor, potentially releasing asbestos fibers.
Internal jet engine temperatures can reach 3,600 degrees. Asbestos-containing gaskets and blankets protected engine and aircraft components against this high heat. Asbestos insulation was also used around electrical components to control heat and prevent fires. Adhesives and epoxies with asbestos also held aircraft components together.
Mechanics were exposed to asbestos fibers when they removed damaged or worn asbestos-containing products. Fibers could be freed if these products were sawed, cut, or sanded when they were installed or removed.
What are the Dangers of Asbestos?
If inhaled, many asbestos fibers will enter the lungs, and some will go through them into the pleura, a thin membrane covering the lungs. Fibers that are swallowed directly or swallowed after they’re coughed up, may be ingested and find their way into the peritoneum, tissue that lines organs and the abdomen.
The body’s immune response can’t destroy these fibers, so they remain in the body for decades. If there are enough fibers in the lungs, they’ll cause scarring and severe difficulty breathing (asbestosis). Asbestos can also cause lung cancer.
Fibers can result in aggressive, treatable, but fatal forms of cancer if the pleura and pericardium are affected (pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma). If asbestos fibers work their way into the tissue lining the heart, it may cause pericardial mesothelioma.
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with asbestosis, lung cancer, or a type of mesothelioma, you may be entitled to compensation for what you’ve endured.
Call Us Today For A Free Consultation
If you or a loved one worked in the aerospace industry and are diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, including mesothelioma, Satterley & Kelley attorneys can answer your questions, advise you of your rights to compensation, and protect your legal rights. To reach our office in Louisville, call 502-589-5600 or toll-free at 855-385-9532. You may also complete our contact form for a free initial consultation.