Plumbers and the Grave Peril of Asbestos Exposure

plumbing and asbestos

The term “plumber” is used to describe a worker who takes on smaller projects in a residential setting, while steamfitters typically deal with systems that involve the high-pressure transport of gas. Pipefitters, on the other hand, handle the installation, design, and repair of pipe systems. They all have something in common though‒the asbestos menace that looms over them. There is a serious lack of awareness when it comes to this issue, and the necessary precautions are not always taken.

Alarm Bells

Asbestos exposure is a tangible indicator, as it can be measured with personal passive samplers. The results of such tracking are alarming and show that 62% of workers are exposed to a significant amount of asbestos fibers. Plumbers join the ranks of refinery workers, firefighters, and shipyard workers as they are constantly at high risk of asbestos exposure. And together with auto mechanics and welders, they also face an increased risk of asbestos-related lung cancer.

Risk Maintenance

Likewise, a recent scientific study has shown that a significant risk of asbestos exposure was linked to all maintenance professions, including plumbing. It has been recognized that they have the same occupational responsibilities as pipefitters and steamfitters who fix and install the pipes that transport a variety of substances like water, steam, air, human waste, and other liquids. Generally, it is estimated that 125,000,000 of people worldwide are exposed to asbestos at their workplace.

Areas of Asbestos Influence

There is a wide array of asbestos-containing products that plumbers repair or at least come in contact with. A bulk of them was manufactured between the 1940s and 1970s. Some of the examples are related to thermal insulation from that period, which includes pipes, boilers, ducts, and tanks. Asbestos was widely used at that time due to its superior fire and heat-resistant properties. Not surprisingly, pipes are what plumbers deal with the most.

Moving Parts

However, even the repairing material that predates the manufacturing processes of the 1980s can contain toxic asbestos. This refers to parts such as valves, gaskets, pipe coating, and joint compounds. These components tend to wear out, and sooner or later, the aid of a plumber is needed. Furthermore, experts argue that any new appliances that are insulated with asbestos bear a substantial risk as well. But, unfortunately, this is not something that an average homeowner who requires the service of a local plumber is aware of.

The Problem Persists

Furthermore, areas that have been cleansed from asbestos can still conceal dangers and risks. Many of those areas were not cleaned properly. Even worse, many people do not know that the use of asbestos continued after the 1980s, and that it was used in the building and construction industry until the year of 2000. The problem is further aggravated as plumbers often work in enclosed spaces. As a result of all this, plumbers are exposed to dangerous amounts of asbestos nearly every day.

Fraught with Danger

Plumbing related activities like cutting, sawing, soldering, drilling, and sanding disturb and disperse the asbestos fibers into the air. The real problems arise when they are inhaled, since asbestos can remain in the human body for a lifetime. When the fibers accumulate, they induce inflammation and scarring. This may further lead to mesothelioma cancer and other diseases associated with asbestos. The gas is also a leading cause of lung cancer (apart from smoking), pulmonary fibrosis, and asbestosis.

Best Practices

The tricky part is that it can take decades for the symptoms of an asbestos-related disease to manifest. Of course, it is important to note that plumbers and other professionals have legal rights to file a claim for a financial compensation in such cases. The high costs of the necessary medical treatments in case of an asbestos disease certainly incentivize this approach. Finally, it goes without saying that the best strategy is actually prevention: At the very least, plumbers must use protective equipment to prevent the asbestos from entering their lungs.

In the Pipeline

Plumbing is a common occupation that is not generally perceived as dangerous or risky. However, many plumbers have been exposed to asbestos in the past and many of them still are. Thus, we must turn this around and prevent any future diseases and fatal scenarios related to asbestos. The policy climate is changing and the awareness is rising. Occupational hazards are not a new thing for many professions, but nobody deserves such perils due to their area of work. There is much room for improvement and people’s health and lives depend on it.

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Chloe is a designer, stylist and a writer at Smoothdecorator.com. She is passionate about photography, ballet and music. Chloe also enjoys researching, learning and blogging about interiors, architecture, real estate trends and various art related topics, since she is crazy about aesthetics. You can find Chloe on FB or Twitter.

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