Cooling towers are most commonly used within the air-conditioning, manufacturing and electric power generation industries as a means of cooling equipment. The towers use water to pull waste heat out of these working units.
Heat trapped within the water is filtered through an air-water system and released into the external environment as steam. While the steam is released, the cooled water is collected and pumped back through the system to absorb more heat.
Asbestos in Cooling Towers Explained
Many of the fill materials within cooling systems contained asbestos. Adding asbestos to materials made them stronger, more durable and fire-resistant. The naturally occurring mineral is also very flexible and resistance to chemicals and electricity.
The physical properties of asbestos, along with its low cost, made it very suitable as an additive to various cooling tower components.
Asbestos in Cooling Components
By the 1940s, asbestos was present in most if not all “fibro-cement” components within cooling towers across North America. These asbestos-containing materials were used as side panels and top covers.
Infill or insulating fill between panels within cooling towers may have also contained asbestos at the time, along with the substance used to coat the tower itself. Asbestos has also been found in cooling tower piping within installations and nuclear power stations.
Exposure to asbestos has led to thousands of mesothelioma diagnoses. If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, the Mesothelioma Justice Guide will help you understand your rights and know the next steps.
Health Risks of Asbestos in Cooling Towers
Asbestos cooling towers were extremely dangerous in comparison to other asbestos-containing materials for 2 main reasons:
- Cooling towers were widespread across various industrial and residential settings–putting a large population at risk of asbestos exposure and long-term mesothelioma and asbestos-related disease development.
- By preventing overheating, cooling towers released asbestos fibers into the external environment during the cooling process.
Limiting Asbestos in Cooling Towers
Cooling towers containing asbestos materials were a serious health risk before their ban. Given the strong link between asbestos exposure and mesothelioma, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a statement requesting the removal or replacement of all asbestos cooling towers.
As the panels and fill materials age within cooling towers, they begin to break down. Before asbestos cooling towers were removed from circulation, the deterioration of these asbestos-containing components allowed the fibrous materials to dissolve into the water.
The water would then pass through the air-water system and release asbestos fibers into the air via steam. Once released into the environment, these deadly fibers can be easily inhaled by people in the immediate and surrounding areas.
Who Was Exposed to Asbestos in Cooling Towers?
Workers across a range of industrial and residential settings may have been exposed to asbestos in cooling towers.
Workers and product handlers within the air-conditioning, manufacturing and electric power generation industries have the highest exposure risk, as they were in close contact with cooling tower vapor. There is also a risk for workers in the insulation and nuclear power plant sectors.
Given that cooling towers containing asbestos were used in air-conditioning systems, individuals outside of the workforce have been put at risk as well. Fibers are also able to stick to equipment and clothing, meaning that family members may have also come in contact with the substance.
Compensation for treatment, loss of income and other damages is available through Asbestos Trust Funds. Workers with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses may qualify.
Seeking Justice for Asbestos Exposure
Sadly, many people across the United States have either developed or been put at risk of developing mesothelioma. Most people who are diagnosed with mesothelioma have been exposed to asbestos on work sites such as in working with cooling towers.
If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma and you’re concerned about your history of asbestos exposure from cooling towers, contact the Justice Support team today. Call us at (888) 360-4215 or request our FREE Mesothelioma Justice Guide to understand your next steps as a mesothelioma victim.