Insulators and Mesothelioma

Insulators and Mesothelioma

Insulators (also known as insulation workers) currently number around 60,000, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics. Insulators are specialists in the installation and removal of materials used to prevent outdoor heat or cold from penetrating the interior of homes, offices, and other structures, or to prevent indoor warmth or coolness from escaping to the outside. Unfortunately, materials handles by insulators once made insulators and mesothelioma common. If you have been exposed to asbestos and diagnosed with mesothelioma contact our office to see if you qualify to file a claim.

Materials Handled by Insulators

Materials handled by insulators are also installed to reduce or block the transmission of noise and to inhibit the spread of accidental fire. These materials are typically installed:

  • behind drywall panels
  • under floors
  • above ceilings
  • and around pipes inside homes, offices, and other structures.

Insulation workers also install energy saving and fire-retarding materials to protect large pieces of machinery or equipment, such as engines, boilers, furnaces, and vats.

Anyone who worked as an insulator during the years following World War II and ending around the time Ronald Reagan was elected president likely came into contact with insulation materials containing asbestos.

The prospect of contact with asbestos decreased throughout the 1980s but did not entirely go away. Indeed, it is possible for insulators to encounter asbestos even today if they are tasked with demolishing structures built in the middle of the 20th Century or earlier.

Being exposed to asbestos can cause a lot of health problems for an unprotected insulator, as it can cause several forms of cancer. Two of these forms are mesothelioma and asbestos lung cancer, which can cause you considerable distress. While both forms of cancer are treatable, they do carry a heavy cost both financially and emotionally.

If you are an insulator who has a proven case of asbestos related illness, you can seek compensation to cover those costs through the legal system. Contact us today to get your compensation.

Who Qualifies As An Insulator?

As you might expect, an insulator is someone who either installs or removes insulation in your home, and they don’t need to be licensed or certified to be considered one. However, most insulators, according to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, tend to specialize into certain specialties of insulation.

The four specialties of insulation include wall insulators, flooring insulators, ceiling and attic insulators, and mechanical insulators. Each specialty focuses on the installation and removal of insulation in that specific area of the home. Floor, ceiling, and wall insulators go in between the studs and joists of your home and lay down insulation batts, or they simply spray foam insulation inside the holes.

For mechanical insulators, they install insulation near working equipment, pipes, or ductwork. Still, despite these specializations, insulators do have some common threads that everyone does when at a job site.

Tasks typically performed by insulators of all stripes include:

  • Measuring and cutting insulation to size
  • Stapling or screwing insulation into place
  • Using power tools to help with installation
  • Tearing out old insulation

Insulators And Asbestos Exposure

There was a time when many of the materials with which insulators worked contained the carcinogenic mineral asbestos. By and large, insulation materials manufactured between the 1930s until the 1970s incorporated asbestos to improve their performance.

Asbestos added to materials enabled them to withstand fire and extreme heat. That is why asbestos was used so extensively in foundries, mills, and other industrial settings where furnaces and boilers were in operation.

However, with regard to the materials utilized by insulators, asbestos was added for reasons beyond fire safety and heat protection. Its presence in insulation delivered cost savings to building owners and occupants by making interiors more energy efficient. Asbestos insulation worked better than other types of insulation to reduce demand for heating and air conditioning.

Owing to its abundance and cheap cost, asbestos was incorporated into a wide range of products for use by insulators. These included:

  • Pipe coatings
  • Equipment covers
  • Gaskets
  • Valve jackets
  • Mastic
  • Paints
  • Wraparound sheets
  • Roll and square batts
  • Spray foam

Insulators and Mesothelioma From Asbestos

While asbestos covered materials aren’t very dangerous when kept still, during the process of handling them and also installing the insulation or removing it, that’s where the health problems start. For example, some insulation needs to be cut into a certain size to fill a smaller space, or it might need to be stapled into position to keep it secure. And if insulation needed to be ripped out, it was often ripped out by hand.

These actions were enough to cause the particles of asbestos inside the insulation to break free, and the particles would float around in the air, almost invisible to the naked eye and also very easy for people to breathe in or swallow.

Asbestos is light enough to behave like dust, where it floats for a while before eventually settling onto the ground. However, it does float for hours and sometimes days after being disturbed, and insulators and anyone else working in the area without being protected can be exposed and breathe in or swallow the tiny particles. Since most insulators tend to work in small spaces that have very little ventilation, they are in constant contact with these particles every time they breathe.

Insulators and Asbestos Inhalation

Once asbestos is inhaled or ingested, the particles settle near the lungs or the abdomen, slowly starting to corrupt every healthy cell around them and not being dislodged by the body’s defenses. It does take a long time (sometimes a few decades) for this corruption to manifest into an actual disease, but it does.

Insulators and other workers who have breathed or swallowed asbestos can develop mesothelioma, asbestos lung cancer, or the painful scarring of the tissues of the lung called asbestosis. There are other asbestos related medical conditions as well, although doctors are still puzzled as to why this happens.
Insulators And Asbestos Exposure From Building Materials

Many of the materials insulators routinely worked with and near were at one time made in part from asbestos. These included:

  • Drywall
  • Ceiling and floor tiles
  • Electrical systems
  • Decorative plaster
  • Bricks and mortar
  • Pipes and valves
  • Water heaters
  • Furnaces and boilers
  • Ducting
  • Adhesives

Asbestos in these materials did not really become a health issue for insulators until something was done to alter an item’s size or shape or to open a hole in it.

To change a product’s dimensions, an insulator would use a saw, scissors, knife, planer, or sander. To open a hole in a product, he or she would use a sledge, pick, drill, or saw. These implements—and others an insulator might use—subjected these products to forces sufficient to dislodge fibers of the mineral.

And it did not take much force at all to dislodge them. Normally, asbestos fibers remain bonded to the material or materials from which the construction product is made as long as the product goes undisturbed. However, taking a tool to an asbestos-containing product creates a disturbance.

The Problem with Free Floating Asbestos Fibers

Freed asbestos fibers then can emerge from the product within which they are contained. After that, they can be easily swept upward into the air by even the faintest hint of a draft.

At this point, with asbestos fibers floating in the air, great danger would exist for any insulator in the immediate vicinity.

Asbestos fibers tend to suspend in air, much as dust particles do. However, asbestos fibers are lighter than dust particles and so are more likely to remain in the air longer before settling—if at all. An insulator could therefore easily find himself or herself engulfed in a cloud of these asbestos fibers even though it was created quite a while earlier.

Were an insulator to be enveloped in a cloud of asbestos fibers, the likelihood of breathing or swallowing some of those airborne particles would be exceptionally high. This did in fact happen to thousands upon thousands of insulators who were employed in the trade before and after the 1970s.

What transpired decades ago—the inhalation or ingestion of asbestos fibers—is a concern today because it takes from 10 to 50 years or longer for inhaled or ingested asbestos to produce diseases such as mesothelioma and asbestos lung cancer.

Insulators and Asbestos Exposure From Power Tools

Insulators mainly used hand tools in the performance of their work. Sometimes, though, they used powered drills, saws, screwdrivers, and staple guns. Often, the source of power for those tools was electricity. But another source of power was compressed air—especially for applying spray foam insulation.

Compressors could be powered by small gasoline-fueled internal combustion engines. Or they could be powered by electricity.

Any tool or piece of gear powered by electricity was a potential source of asbestos exposure.

The motors that drive electrically powered tools generate significant heat when operated. The longer the motor runs, the hotter it gets. To prevent motor heat from melting the tool’s internal wiring and other components, makers typically added asbestos as a thermal shield.

After enough exposure to this heat as well as the general wear and tear of using the tool, the asbestos inside the tool would crack open and the tiny airborne particles would remain trapped inside the tool. At least, until someone cracked open the tool to perform maintenance on it. Most maintenance to remove the asbestos was done by blasting compressed air into the tool to remove the asbestos dust (while spreading it around to everyone in the area.)

Once the particles are airborne, they can be breathed or swallowed. They then travel down your respiratory or circulatory systems and get near your lungs and abdomen. They then remain there permanently, because due to the shape of the asbestos particles, they can’t be removed by the body’s natural defenses.

Then they go to work infecting healthy cells, and this can cause asbestos related diseases to surface such as mesothelioma. While not every insulator gets any illness, for those that do asbestos is going to be the cause.

Insulators and Asbestos Exposure From Working Alongside Other Trades

Of course, where there’s insulators, there is a project, and where there is a project, there are other construction workers who are doing their own jobs.

In some instances, insulators are present at the same time as drywallers, ceiling and flooring specialists, painters, plumbers, electricians, masonry workers, and others. Or it might be that insulators are onsite immediately after those other tradespeople.

In the past, most of the materials those construction workers worked with were made with asbestos. And the other workers cut into asbestos drywall, hammered asbestos ironworks, and drilled into asbestos bricks. All of these are disturbances that can cause issues for all the construction workers and could have exposed them to asbestos.

The asbestos that was exposed by other construction workers and also exposed by the insulators themselves now resided in the air, and it could easily be inhaled or swallowed if the workers didn’t have proper protection.

Once the asbestos is inhaled or swallowed, the particles get in healthy cells and then focus on turning them into infected and cancerous cells that can cause a lot of problems for an affected person’s health, even decades after the exposure.

Insulators’ Rights to Compensation After Asbestos Exposure

If insulators have suffered an asbestos related problem, and the disease can be linked back both to asbestos and to that exposure, then they can seek compensation from a court of law. They can attempt to gain back wages lost from their time out of work, compensation for the costs of treatment, and more.

There have been many legal victories where people affected by an asbestos related illness have been able to hold businesses accountable. The companies already have bad faith working against them, because they sold and distributed asbestos products without warning people about the health risks.

Filing a lawsuit as an asbestos injured insulator can help you win the trial rather than accepting an out of court lawsuit payment. Because the company need to defend why it sold asbestos products, rather than simply claiming ignorance of the entire thing, they often don’t want to go before a judge and jury and instead settle things out of court.

If the asbestos company in question has filed for bankruptcy, you won’t be able to sue them. However, you can take advantage of bankruptcy law. This states that any bankrupt company must set money aside in a trust fund (called an asbestos trust) to compensate victims who have submitted a correctly completed application for compensation. Contact us today.

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