Asbestos Exposure in HVAC Mechanics

HVAC mechanics install and maintain heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems in buildings, allowing people to work and live in comfort. However, cancer-causing asbestos was heavily used in home and building construction until the early 1980s. HVAC mechanics could be at risk of developing deadly health conditions even to this day.

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HVAC Mechanics and Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos was a very common ingredient in construction materials between the 1930s and early 1980s due to its insulating, fireproofing and waterproofing qualities, and because it is cheap to purchase. Asbestos was a desirable material and manufacturers across the world used it with abandon.

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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:

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

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 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:

  • Consult with customers and make educated recommendations
  • 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

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 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 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 20-50 for the disease to develop, 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 is almost always fatal.

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.

Our Justice Support Team can tell you more about your legal options. See all the ways we can help you.

Author:Stephanie Kidd

Editor-in-Chief of the Mesothelioma Justice Network

Stephanie Kidd

Stephanie Kidd works tirelessly as a dedicated advocate for the vulnerable and underrepresented. Stephanie worked as a copywriter for an agency whose focus was communicating safety procedures on construction work sites. With her extensive background in victim advocacy and a dedication to seeing justice done, Stephanie works hard to ensure that all online content is reliable, truthful and helpful.

Last modified: September 17, 2019

View 3 Sources
  1. High Performance HVAC, “Asbestos & Mesothelioma Information for HVAC Technicians”. Retrieved from Accessed on May 5, 2018.
  2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers”. Retrieved from Accessed on May 5, 2018.
  3. Inspectapedia, “Asbestos Paper Wrap on Air Ducts”. Retrieved from Accessed on May 5, 2018.
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