Here's why insulators face a high risk of occupational asbestos-related diseases

Treven Pyles

By Treven Pyles

Posted on July 15th, 2020

People in no other occupation got exposed to asbestos as much as the insulators were exposed to this toxic material. Between the years 1920 and 1980, every insulation product was made with asbestos, and insulators were inevitably exposed to asbestos as they installed and replaced the insulation materials.

Throughout the 1900s, insulators were heavily exposed to asbestos when it was used as insulation at manufacturing facilities, in cars and ships, boilers, and large buildings. They worked in various fields, however, their main responsibility was the installation of insulation products. They also worked on ships and various facilities that required insulation for machinery. Currently, insulators continue to be exposed to asbestos when old buildings that contain asbestos insulation are remodeled or when they handle machinery that was manufactured before the 1980s.

The work environment and role of insulators contributed to their asbestos exposure

Insulators exposed to asbestos

Insulators in almost every industry worked directly with asbestos regularly. Generally, they have the responsibility of determining the type and amount of insulation required and deciding the installation method by taking into account factors such as the shape of the surface, location, and equipment use.

In addition to high asbestos exposure from the insulation products, insulators worked in an environment where other asbestos materials were used extensively in the form of flooring, roofing, paint, drywall, and sealants.

Further, they worked within cramped spaces which had very poor ventilation. Insulators performed their duties in the following areas:

  • Commercial buildings (schools/offices/hospitals)
  • Residential housing projects and individual homes
  • Industrial facilities (chemical plants/oil refineries, paper mills)
  • Shipbuilding yards
  • Aerospace industries
  • Boiler rooms
  • Facilities with HVAC systems

The tasks performed by insulators include:

  • Installation of insulation around obstructions
  • Installation of sheet metal around insulated pipes
  • Shaping the insulating materials
  • Measuring and cutting insulation using a handsaw or knife

The following insulation techniques that used asbestos as a prime component were used by insulators:

  • Insulation wrappings: Rolled wrappings made up of asbestos paper and asbestos fill were used by industrial insulators to insulate pipes and ducts. This technique was common in hot water delivery systems and heating plants.
  • Loose-fill insulation: This is a fluffy insulation material that could be poured into the floor and was usually employed in building construction. Millions of homes in the US in the past century contained this type of asbestos insulation, and most of these homes still exist.
  • Spray-on method: This method was used on irregular surfaces such as ship frames. It contained nearly 85% asbestos fibers condensed into a pressurized liquid to be sprayed on the surfaces.
  • Block insulation: These constituted pure asbestos fibers that were formed into rigid insulation blocks or slabs that could be cut down into required shapes and attached to concrete walls.

Asbestos exposure poses serious health risks among insulators

People who worked as insulators in the past century are currently at risk of developing serious, often life-threatening diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other malignant diseases. A Swedish study that was published in the year 2016 in the Epidemiology and Health journal reported that the rate of pleural mesothelioma in insulators was over ten times higher when compared to the general population.

Asbestos-related diseases may not develop until 10-50 years after the exposure has taken place. Asbestos fibers accumulate in the organ tissues, especially within the lungs after inhalation, and eventually lead to inflammation and scarring of the lung tissues. Over the years, this irritated tissue can turn into mesothelioma or lung cancer. Extensive research regarding the occupational diseases caused by asbestos exposure has shown that over 80% of asbestos insulators with more than 20 years of experience developed asbestosis and nearly 40% of deaths among insulators could be attributed to their asbestos exposure. However, it is important to know that you cannot recover financial compensation for asbestosis.

Insulators with the following cancer diagnoses that are linked to their worksite asbestos exposure have immediate eligibility to file a claim:

Insulators can file a claim to receive their compensation for asbestos-related cancer

If you worked as an insulator before the 1980s, you were most likely exposed to asbestos.

You are entitled to receive compensation if you have been diagnosed with any of the asbestos-related cancers above after working around asbestos on your job as an insulator.

You need to act quickly and get in touch with an asbestos lawyer as soon as possible. Our team of attorneys can help you in filing a claim with the appropriate asbestos trust funds and receive your rightful compensation.