Posted on July 14th, 2020
Asbestos was the material of choice for insulating heating appliances for several years before its harmful effects were known. As a result, HVAC mechanics and those working in the heating and cooling industry were inadvertently exposed to harmful asbestos daily.
In the US, about 40-60% of the total energy use in the commercial sector occurs from HVAC systems. Asbestos-containing materials were extensively used in products that HVAC mechanics handle, which includes the metal HVAC heating ducts, insulation, and floor/ceiling tiles in older buildings. Heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) workers often had to work at residential houses and commercial establishments such as factories, offices, schools, and hospitals. The HVAC systems are usually placed on rooftops, garages, attics, on concrete slabs outside the home or office, or in other closed spaces. The use of asbestos in HVAC systems stopped in the 1980s once it was banned, however asbestos lingers in the older systems.
HVAC mechanics come in direct contact with asbestos-containing materials used during the construction of a building, which includes old air duct systems, tank insulation, furnace insulation, casings, gaskets, HVAC vibration dampeners, and cooling towers.
While repairing the system, old ductwork with the insulation, drywall, and shingles may be cut, sanded, or disturbed, which releases asbestos into the air.
As the workspace is often cramped, any form of disturbed asbestos gets concentrated in the air and reaches the lungs of the workers.
The HVAC mechanics were responsible for testing, repairing, and overhauling the complex ventilation systems. They performed several tasks that include:
During routine maintenance tasks, HVAC mechanics change the filters and check furnaces. They open the panels and compartments to perform this task and are likely to disturb the asbestos debris that may have collected in the space.
The inhalation of asbestos dust can cause life-threatening health issues. While long-term asbestos exposure is the primary cause of mesothelioma, it can also lead to asbestosis and lung cancer. These diseases do not show any symptoms or signs for 2-5 decades after the exposure to asbestos and for this reason, most HVAC mechanics who get sick after retirement fail to connect their illness with their previous asbestos exposure. HVAC mechanics are over four times more likely to die from asbestosis than other people, as per the article published in EC Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine, which presented the analysis of asbestosis deaths in the US between the years 1970 and 2014.
If HVAC mechanics have received a diagnosis of the following benign conditions, they can file an asbestos claim if they travel to Birmingham, AL to our medical facility and asbestos fibers are found in their lungs upon the free asbestos screening they undergo there:
HVAC mechanics with a diagnosis of the following cancerous conditions because of their worksite asbestos exposure can file a claim immediately: