Insulation Workers and Mesothelioma
No trade is more impacted by asbestos than insulators. For decades much of their work consisted of applying, removing, and re-applying asbestos-containing insulation products. Until the late 1970s, someone applying insulation would expect to work regularly with or near asbestos-containing products.
Asbestos is a cancer-causing mineral fiber. If the fibers are in the air and inhaled or swallowed by insulators, they can work their way into their lungs and other organs. Over years or decades, they can cause the development of lung cancer and mesothelioma (a cancer of membranes lining organs, the chest, and abdominal cavities). Satterley & Kelley may help you obtain compensation if you’re injured by asbestos.
What Do Insulation Workers Do?
Insulation workers install and replace insulation used in buildings or on mechanical systems. Insulation protects those working near extremely hot equipment, saves energy, and reduces noise.
Insulators work around vessels, vats, boilers, turbines, and steam pipes – practically anything giving off high heat. Insulators also install fire-proofing materials to prevent or control fires in large buildings. They also insulated residential attics and walls with asbestos.
There is often old, asbestos-containing insulation in office buildings, factories, refineries, and chemical plants. Specially-trained hazardous materials removal workers or insulators remove this material before installing new insulation. For decades insulation workers removed old asbestos insulation, filling the workplace with asbestos fibers, with little or no regard for safety.
How Were Insulation Workers Exposed to Asbestos?
The insulation they used contained asbestos, and it took many forms:
- Loose asbestos: Loose-fill insulation was poured onto attic floors or blown into wall spaces and other structures. Some of these products were just asbestos fibers, so touching or disturbing it could send fibers into the air
- Insulation wrappings: They insulated steam pipes, ducts, plumbing, and HVAC components in old ships, buildings, factories, oil refineries, chemical plants, and power plants. This insulation was cardboard made of asbestos paper, which over time deteriorates, and sheds asbestos fibers.
- Block insulation: It looks like a block of Styrofoam but was made of asbestos. They were cut and glued on whatever surface needed to be insulated
- Spray-on insulation: This was sprayed onto ceilings, walls, and structural beams as a fire retardant because asbestos is heat and fire-resistant. It can be easily damaged and release fibers into the air
If you worked as an insulator with asbestos-containing products, the issue isn’t whether you were exposed to asbestos. It’s how much asbestos you inhaled or swallowed.
What are the Dangers of Asbestos?
Asbestos products aren’t dangerous if they’re intact. They’re hazardous when applied, removed, dried out, torn, old, or disturbed. When that happens, asbestos fibers are released into the air. Unless those in the area use sufficient safety gear, they will be inhaled or swallowed and possibly end up in the lungs or other organs.
The human body can’t break down asbestos fibers, unlike many other foreign materials. White cells attacking them eventually die and spill enzymes into nearby lung cells, causing scarring and inflammation. If enough fibers are inhaled, the person may develop asbestosis, severely limiting one’s ability to breathe.
Over time nearby cells mutate and eventually become malignant. It can take 30 to 40 years before mesothelioma develops.
How Harmful is Mesothelioma?
This cancer is treatable, but treatments generally aren’t a cure. It may improve your quality of life and extend it, but the condition is probably fatal.
- The average overall survival rate for those with pleural mesothelioma (which affects the lining of the lungs and chest cavity) five years after diagnosis, according to the American Cancer Society, is 12%. If the disease is found at an early stage, it increases to 20% but falls to 8% if you’re diagnosed after it spreads through the body
- A study of patients with pericardial mesothelioma (which affects the heart’s lining) reported they survived, on average, two months after being diagnosed
- A 2013 article in the European Journal of Cancer discussing the outcomes for 108 patients with peritoneal mesothelioma (which impacts the linings of organs and the abdominal cavity) reported that 43.6% lived seven or more years after treatment ended
Your prognosis depends on your age, overall health, and type of mesothelioma.
Call Us Today for A Free Mesothelioma Lawsuit Consultation
Call our Louisville KY office at 502-589-5600 or toll-free at 800-655-2117. If you have worked as an insulation worker, it is important to know your risks and your rights regarding asbestos injuries. You can also complete our contact form to schedule a free initial consultation.