Asbestos Exposure in HVAC Mechanics

Summary

HVAC mechanics install and maintain heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems in houses and buildings. HVAC mechanics help control temperature, allowing people to work and live in comfortable environments. Unfortunately, cancer-causing asbestos was heavily used in home and building construction until the mid-1970s, putting HVAC mechanics at risk of developing deadly health conditions, even to this day.

HVAC Mechanics Roles and Responsibilities

HVAC mechanics ensure a building has a comfortable temperature and decent air quality, directly impacting the well-being of occupants.

Some HVAC mechanics specialize in a single aspect of HVAC, such as a specific heating mechanism like solar power, while others act as generalists taking on any HVAC-related task. Similarly, HVAC mechanics may choose to work only with residential or commercial buildings, or they may work with both.

HVAC mechanics have several roles and responsibilities, including:

  • Install new HVAC systems, including electrical wiring
  • Maintain, test and analyze existing HVAC systems to ensure quality
  • Repair faulty or malfunctioning HVAC systems
  • Replace individual parts and components, as needed
  • Consult with customers and make educated recommendations

Because HVAC systems affect every room in a home or building, HVAC mechanics may need access to several areas, including roofs, walls and floors. Sometimes creative solutions are required to give HVAC mechanics the access to a space they need.

HVAC mechanics come into contact with a range of building materials, including wood, drywall, metals, cement and glues.

At times, HVAC mechanics may need to partner with other specialists to complete a task. It’s not uncommon for HVAC mechanics to work closely with electricians, plumbers, sheet metal workers, pipefitters and boilermakers. By partnering with other experts, HVAC mechanics can create, implement and maintain effective heating and cooling systems for almost any type of building.

HVAC Mechanics and Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos was a very common ingredient in construction materials between the 1930s and mid-1970s due to its insulating, fireproofing and waterproofing qualities, and because it’s inexpensive. Asbestos was a desirable material and manufacturers across the world used it with abandon.

MJN Brief

HVAC mechanics are at risk of asbestos exposure every time they work in a building that contains asbestos. While asbestos isn’t used in new construction buildings and homes today, it is still present in many of the older structures that HVAC mechanics service.

When left alone, asbestos is a safe material. However, when asbestos is disrupted through any sort of handling or movement, fibers are released into the air. These asbestos fibers can be inhaled or ingested by HVAC mechanics, putting them at risk for asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma.

To this day, HVAC mechanics encounter many materials that may contain asbestos, including:

  • Insulation, including HVAC duct insulation
  • Sealants, adhesives and glues
  • Cement
  • Floor and ceiling tiles
  • Gaskets, wires
  • Roofing and shingles
  • Pipes

HVAC mechanics work with countless components of a home, which makes it nearly impossible to recognize every element that may contain asbestos.

Precautions should always be taken when there’s even a small risk of being exposed to asbestos. In addition, all HVAC mechanics should take training courses in identifying asbestos and staying safe.

Once the dangers of asbestos were discovered, it was phased out of construction. However, buildings are made to stand the test of time, and that means many residential, commercial and industrial structures are still riddled with asbestos.

HVAC Mechanics and Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is an aggressive, deadly form of cancer that originates from asbestos exposure. Asbestos fibers that are accidentally absorbed into the body can get stuck in the natural lining of the abdomen, heart or lungs. Over time, these fibers can mutate the adjacent natural cells, transforming them into cancer cells.

Mesothelioma is slow to form but quick to kill. It can take several decades for the disease to form and infect a victim’s body, yet the average life expectancy for a person diagnosed with mesothelioma is less than 2 years. While diagnosing the disease in the earlier stages can improve prognosis, mesothelioma tends to remain a fatal condition.

Compensation for HVAC Mechanics

If you’re an HVAC mechanic who has worked in buildings with asbestos-containing materials, you may be at risk of developing mesothelioma. Many mesothelioma victims can receive financial compensation to help cover lost wages, medical bills and pain and suffering.

However, it’s important to act fast and contact a legal professional with mesothelioma experience as soon as you receive a mesothelioma diagnosis.

For more information on seeking justice for a mesothelioma diagnosis, contact our Justice Support Team today.

View Author and Sources
Sources
  1. High Performance HVAC, “Asbestos & Mesothelioma Information for HVAC Technicians”. Retrieved from https://highperformancehvac.com/asbestos-mesothelioma-information-hvac-technicians/ Accessed on May 5, 2018.
  2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers”. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/heating-air-conditioning-and-refrigeration-mechanics-and-installers.htm#tab-2 Accessed on May 5, 2018.
  3. Inspectapedia, “Asbestos Paper Wrap on Air Ducts”. Retrieved from https://inspectapedia.com/hazmat/Asbestos_Paper_Duct_Insulation.php. Accessed on May 5, 2018.

Last modified: May 24, 2018