Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Specialists
HVAC workers are a trade that worked with or encountered asbestos-containing products. While working to ensure customers were cool in the summer and warm in the winter, they inhaled asbestos fibers that could cause cancer. If you worked in the HVAC industry and suffered harm because of asbestos, you may be entitled to compensation.
What Do HVAC Specialists Do?
HVAC covers the climate control systems in homes, offices, and commercial and industrial buildings. They transport warm or cool air throughout buildings to maintain a comfortable temperature. HVAC specialists maintain and remove old equipment and install new systems.
How Were HVAC Specialists Exposed to Asbestos
Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral fiber resistant to heat and fire and doesn’t conduct electricity. It was used in thousands of products for decades. It became highly regulated and mostly taken off the market in the late 1970s because it causes cancer. But asbestos-containing products remain in buildings until they’re demolished or the products are removed.
Some asbestos-containing HVAC components and products include:
- Adhesives: Adhesives, mastics, and joint compounds sealed heat sources in attics and basements. HVAC workers sanded them to make repairs on old equipment, releasing fibers into the air
- Ductwork: Ductwork connectors contained asbestos because it’s strong, flexible, and heat resistant. HVAC specialists handled these connectors when installing ducts and making repairs. Asbestos paper insulation covered ductwork too
- Furnaces: Asbestos lined some furnaces with asbestos insulation (like rope and packing) to contain heat. Handling, removing, or replacing asbestos-containing products would release fibers into the worksite
- Insulation: This was used in and around ductwork, on steam pipes, boilers, furnace ducts, and baseboard heat registers
- Wallboard, Flooring, and Ceilings: Drywall, floor tiles, linoleum, ceiling tiles, and firewall bricks contained asbestos. HVAC workers sometimes cut away or drilled through these materials to gain access to HVAC equipment
HVAC workers could also be exposed to asbestos because other trades at the same worksite used asbestos-containing products.
What are the Dangers of Asbestos?
When asbestos fibers are in the air and inhaled, they may remain in the lungs for years or decades. If exposure continues, fibers can accumulate, causing scarring and inflammation, which can impair breathing and lead to asbestosis and cancer development, reports the National Cancer Institute.
Asbestos causes cancer, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the federal Environmental Protection Agency, and the federal Department of Health and Human Services.
The IARC states asbestos causes pleural mesothelioma (a rare and deadly cancer of the thin membranes (the pleura) that line the lung and chest). It may take decades for cellular mutations due to asbestos fibers to lead to the condition. Asbestos also causes peritoneal mesothelioma (a cancer of the lining of organs and the abdominal cavity) and pericardial mesothelioma (cancer of the heart’s lining).
How Dangerous is Mesothelioma?
Treatment may extend your life and improve its quality, but it probably won’t cure the condition. The American Cancer Society (ACS) defines “relative survival rate” as comparing those with a type and stage of cancer to the overall population. A five-year relative survival rate of 50% would mean that these people are about half as likely as those who don’t have that cancer type to live at least five years after diagnosis.
Pleural mesothelioma is a more aggressive form of cancer. The overall five-year relative survival rate is 12 percent. If the disease is localized when you’re diagnosed, the rate improves to 20 percent. If it’s widely spread, the rate decreases to eight percent.
A study of pericardial mesothelioma patients found they lived, on average, two months after diagnosis. In a 2013 article in the European Journal of Cancer, researchers looked at the outcomes for 108 peritoneal mesothelioma patients. Almost half (43.6%) survived seven or more years after treatment ended.
Your prognosis depends on many factors, including age, if you have other chronic conditions and your type of mesothelioma. The ACS estimates that if all cancers are combined, the average five-year relative survival rate for White Americans is 68% and 63% for African Americans as of 2021.