Plumbers and Mesothelioma Exposure
Plumbers are the trade many see as the symbol of hardworking, blue-collar guys getting their hands dirty to support themselves and their families. Unfortunately, many die due to asbestos-related diseases that cut their lives short, something few of us realize. These plumbers met their fate due to greedy companies selling asbestos-containing products that poisoned worksites across the country for decades.
Asbestos was heavily used until the late 1970s and early 80s. Plumbers could be exposed if they worked before those years or encountered these products in homes, commercial and industrial buildings afterward.
What Do Plumbers Do?
Plumbers don’t just work in homes. They can be involved in a wide range of work, including large-scale commercial and industrial projects and developments. Their goal is to install and maintain systems transporting gases, water, waste, or hot liquids. They may:
A plumber may specialize in a specific type of work or may do several tasks.
How Were Plumbers Exposed to Asbestos?
Asbestos was used to insulate boilers, pipes, ducts, and tanks because it was cheap, strong, heat- and fire-resistant. It was also mixed with cement to make pipes. Asbestos fibers were released into the air when plumbers removed, repaired, or replaced these products. Plumbers:
When asbestos in these materials is liberated into the air, plumbers and those around them can inhale and swallow fibers. The fibers can lodge in the lungs, abdominal organs, or membranes around organs or lining the chest and abdominal cavities.
Plumbers also face danger by working with pumps, valves, and gaskets containing asbestos. Pumps and valves pressurize and circulate water and other fluids. Gaskets are inside the pumps, and valves prevent leaks. Over time, they wear out and need replacement. When plumbers remove or replace them, asbestos fibers can become airborne.
The following products used by plumbers can contain asbestos:
Many trades, such as painters, insulators, and boilermakers also used asbestos-containing products. If plumbers worked in the same area, they would breathe in fibers released into the air because of their work.
At least one medical journal article documented that plumbers were exposed to asbestos fibers. Researchers examined 153 plumbers and pipefitters. The 1985 article stated that x-rays found signs of asbestos in both lungs in 28 subjects, in one lung in 12, and small spots showing asbestos were in 12 subjects.
What are the Dangers of Asbestos?
Many years or decades after asbestos fibers are inhaled into the lungs, they can cause asbestosis (which severely restricts breathing), lung cancer, and pleural mesothelioma, a deadly cancer of the lining of the lungs and chest cavity, according to the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.
The immune system recognizes asbestos fibers as foreign, so it attacks them and tries to destroy them. But these white cells don’t affect the fibers. They die, spill out enzymes, injure nearby tissue, and cause inflammation. This can lead to:
Asbestos can also cause peritoneal and pericardial mesothelioma:
Mesothelioma is unpredictable. Someone heavily exposed to asbestos may not develop it, while another may be lightly exposed and die of the disease. Decades may pass from exposure to a mesothelioma diagnosis.
How Harmful is Mesothelioma to Plumbers?
Cancer survival statistics usually involve estimates of the share of people with specific characteristics who survive five years after being diagnosed. The overall five-year pleural mesothelioma survival rate is 10%, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
Research involving French cancer registries estimates the average time of survival for those with peritoneal mesothelioma was a year after diagnosis. One study of pericardial mesothelioma estimates the average survival after diagnosis was two months.
To put this in context, the American Cancer Society states the overall average colon cancer five-year survival rate is 64%.
Call Us Today For A Free Consultation
If you or a loved one worked as a plumber and has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, Satterley & Kelley attorneys can help. We can answer your questions and discuss your legal rights to compensation. You can reach our Louisville office by calling 502-589-5600 or toll-free at 855-385-9532. You can also fill out our contact form to schedule a free initial consultation.