Pumps and Asbestos Exposure

Summary

Millions of pressurized pumps serviced the nation in residential, commercial and industrial applications. The United States military also employed pumps in all sorts of places with the navy being the most significant purchaser, installer and maintainer of stand-alone and continuous-loop pump systems. Most pumps required electricity as their primary source and needed non-conductive insulation for safety.

 For over 100 years, most of the pumps manufactured in America used vast amounts of dangerous asbestos fibers.

Asbestos fibers played many roles in pump manufacturing and installation. It didn’t matter whether it was a sump pump in a residential basement or a centrifugal pump on an aircraft carrier, some part of every pump produced between 1880 and 1980 contained asbestos materials. Asbestos was a staple product in pump making, and few workers assembling, installing or maintaining pumps were aware of the dangers airborne asbestos fibers posed.

Pump manufacturers and end users thought asbestos-containing materials (ACM) were the solution to many problems. Most pumps worked in a corrosive environment. Asbestos was non-corrosive and wouldn’t rust. It was chemically stable and safe to blend with other materials. Asbestos was lightweight and had excellent insulating properties. That was particularly important for high-heat and high-pressure pump installations.

Asbestos Materials in Pump Manufacturing and Installing

Every pump making and installing process used asbestos-containing materials before the health risks from airborne asbestos fiber exposure was widely known. Asbestos exposure dangers weren’t a secret in some circles, though. Unscrupulous asbestos suppliers and pump manufacturers had plenty of warning back in the 1930s that asbestos fibers cause lung disorders.

There’s ample evidence that American officials were also aware how deadly exposure to asbestos particles was. Documents exist proving high-ranking members of the Roosevelt Administration purposely concealed information on asbestos exposure health dangers. They feared the news would alarm shipbuilding workers installing pumps and other asbestos materials and that this would hamper the production of vital World War II military vessels.

Most pumps were part of an overall liquid circulatory or linear distribution system. Metals like steel, iron and aluminum created most pump components, but all connecting metal surfaces needed a flexible bonding agent. This agent was usually a flat gasket or a semi-liquid sealant. Asbestos was the choice material for gaskets, sealants, packing, valves and pump insulation. Finally, it was no longer possible to hide the dangers asbestos exposure presented.

MJN Brief

By the 1980s, asbestos danger warnings went public. Federal regulators like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) took measures to ban asbestos components from pump manufacturing and installation processes. But, by then, the damage was done for thousands of American military service people and civilian contractors.

 

Asbestos Exposure from Pumps and Installation Components

Pumps containing asbestos materials placed everyone working with them at health risk. When asbestos materials like gaskets, sealants and insulation already set in pumps are left undisturbed, there was little risk for exposure. Intact asbestos rarely discharged airborne fibers. It’s the manufacturing, installing and maintaining steps that proved deadly.

Workers in every pump making, installing and maintaining process suffered exposure if airborne asbestos fibers were present. Exposure health risks increased depending on the type of asbestos a pump worker was exposed to, the number of detected particles, and the duration or length of time they had exposure.

Some of the highest pump user risk groups include:

When workers inhaled asbestos fibers, microscopic particles entered their lungs. Tiny asbestos fibers attached to the lung lining or what’s known as the mesothelium. Asbestos shards didn’t release. They stayed permanently embedded in the mesothelium and created scar tissue. It took quite some time, but eventually, the mass became tumors and caused the deadly disease called mesothelioma.

Compensation for Mesothelioma Victims

There is no known cure for mesothelioma. The only legal recourse is filing damage claims against negligent asbestos producers and suppliers. That includes demanding compensation for medical expenses, lost income and personal injury. Families can act for mesothelioma victims. They can also file lawsuits for wrongful death claims.