Boilermakers and Mesothelioma
Boilers were the heart of many factories, power plants, and ships, while asbestos was used. Fuel was burned and used to create steam that heated or powered the facility. Boilers would be intensely hot, and their pipes contained high-pressure steam. Asbestos insulation was used as fireproofing to control the intense heat.
The boilermakers who made, maintained, and repaired boilers were exposed to mesothelioma-causing asbestos fibers when the insulation was applied, when it was torn off and replaced. Asbestos exposure was part of the job during the height of asbestos use until it was removed from a boiler.
What Do Boilermakers Do?
A boilermaker is a skilled tradesperson who makes, installs, maintains, and repairs boilers, tanks, and closed vats. Boilers heat a liquid, usually water, to generate electric power or heat factories, buildings, or ships. Vats and tanks store oil, chemicals, and other liquids.
How Were Boilermakers Exposed to Asbestos?
From 1920 to 1980, asbestos was the “go-to” fire and heat-resistant material for boilers. Asbestos was used in assembling boilers because it was a practical, strong, cheap, high-heat insulator. Boilermakers are at high risk of asbestos-related disease because of their heavy exposure to fibers.
In addition to insulation, boilermakers used many kinds of asbestos-related products:
- Valve packing
- Protective equipment
For many years, boilermakers were surrounded by asbestos-containing products in the workplace. Exposure to fibers could happen at any time:
- Boilermakers connected boilers to heat transfer systems with asbestos-insulated pipes
- Boilermakers hammered or filed rough edges of boilers lined or wrapped with asbestos insulation. That physical force shook asbestos into the air, which workers inhaled
- The situation became worse when outdated or damaged boilers needed replacement. Insulation and other asbestos products were torn off, and fibers floated through the air. This was especially hazardous if they worked in a confined area without ventilation
Boilermakers may just be one trade on a worksite. Others working with asbestos could be present, making the atmosphere that much more toxic for everyone.
What Dangers Do Boilermakers Face?
Asbestos is dangerous and should be avoided, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. The risk of a boilermaker developing an asbestos-related disease like mesothelioma depends on many factors, including:
- The volume of asbestos in the air
- The frequency and duration of exposure
- How many years the exposure lasted
- Pre-existing lung or breathing conditions
- Tobacco smoking
Inhaled asbestos fibers can become lodged in the lungs and irritate their tissues. If enough are in the lungs, non-cancerous conditions like asbestosis and pleural disease may develop. Fibers can also be swallowed and move through the digestive system. Asbestos-related cancers include:
- Lung cancer: Tumors invade and block air passages. If a boilermaker smoked while being exposed, it dramatically increases the risk of developing lung cancer
- Pleural mesothelioma: A rare and deadly cancer of the membrane covering the lungs and chest cavity (the pleura). It may take 30 to 40 years after asbestos exposure to develop the disease asbestos
- Peritoneal mesothelioma: This is similar to pleural mesothelioma, but it occurs in peritoneal membranes, which line the abdomen and organs. It’s an aggressive cancer that’s often fatal
- Pericardial mesothelioma: The heart’s lining is the site of this lethal cancer. It represents about 1% of mesothelioma cases
These cancers occur when the fibers trigger genetic cell mutations. Over time the cells in the area change to the point where they become malignant and spread in the body.
How Harmful is Mesothelioma?
Pleural mesothelioma is a fatal cancer. Depending on your situation, treatment may be an option, but the best outcomes are usually an extended lifespan and or improved quality of life.
The National Cancer Institute has two systems to estimate a patient’s prognosis given several characteristics. In one study, on average, patients with the least disease survived 29.9 months after diagnosis. Those in the most severe situations survived less than two months. In another study, 40 percent of those in a low-risk group survived a year from diagnosis, while only 12 percent of those with advanced disease did so.
Those with peritoneal mesothelioma have a better chance of a cure. A 2013 article in the European Journal of Cancer reported the results of 108 patients treated for the disease. Researchers found the cure rate (survival of seven or more years after treatment) was 43.6%.
Call Us Today For A Free Consultation
If you or a loved one worked as a boilermaker and have mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, Satterley & Kelley lawyers can answer your questions, tell you about your rights to compensation, and discuss how to protect them. You can reach our Louisville office by calling 502-589-5600 or toll-free at 800-655-2117. You can also fill out our contact form to schedule a free initial consultation.