It’s likely that no person in any trade worked with asbestos more than insulators. Almost every insulation product from the 1920s to the 1980s contained asbestos. Some materials like blown attic insulation were nearly 100% asbestos. Other insulation products had at least half their bulk composed of asbestos fibers.

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Insulators were once known in their industry as “asbestos workers” because of the huge amount of asbestos once used in insulation materials.

Insulator Roles and Responsibilities

Insulators skills and training range from simple laborers who set bats and wrap heating pipes to highly professional workers operating expensive spray-on equipment. Many insulation workers specialize in installation where other conduct temporary insulation work as part of their overall jobs.

Every production facility or building used insulation products where thermal control was necessary. Often, insulation materials serve other purposes such as fire resistance and sound suppression.

Some areas have trade certification for insulators where they spend 4 or 5 years in an apprenticeship before becoming ticketed journeymen. These advanced skills are usually found in industrial and commercial settings rather than in residential homebuilding.

Insulator roles and responsibilities included these areas:

  • Residential construction including single and multi-family housing projects
  • Commercial buildings such as offices, schools and hospitals
  • Industrial settings like paper mills, oil refineries and chemical plants
  • Shipbuilding of every vessel size from yachts to aircraft carriers
  • Aeronautics, aviation and aerospace industries
  • Boiler rooms in every type of facility
  • Heating, ventilation and air conditioning applications

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Asbestos insulation was used across the board. It was found in every location where heat loss or gain needed control. When asbestos insulation was first introduced, every industry adopted it with open arms. Asbestos was thermally inert. Its porous composition trapped air and reduced heat transfer. Asbestos was non-corrosive, fireproof and didn’t conduct electricity. That made it an excellent insulator for pipes and electrical wires. Additionally, asbestos was inexpensive, easy to work with and widely available.

Insulators and Asbestos Exposure

Insulators in every industry worked hands-on with asbestos. It’s safe to say that no tradesperson worked closer with asbestos than professional insulators. There were 4 main insulation techniques that insulators were proficient in.

At one time, all these techniques used asbestos as their prime composition:

1. Loose-Fill Insulation

This was the fluffy insulation material designed to be poured into floors and attics. Loose-fill also takes in batt insulation that’s stuffed into walls. It was normally applied in building construction and was the primary insulation used in millions of American homes during the early and mid-twentieth century.

Many of these homes still stand and are surrounded by asbestos insulation.

2. Insulation Wrappings

Commercial and industrial insulators commonly used rolled wrappings to insulate pipes and ducts. This was common in heating plants and hot water delivery systems. Wrapped insulation was known as air-cell material. It once was made of asbestos paper with asbestos fill.

3. Block Insulation

These were slabs or rigid insulation blocks that were cut to shape and attached to solid surfaces like concrete walls and ship hulls. Blocks were nearly pure asbestos fibers.

4. Spray-On Insulation

Asbestos fibers were condensed in a pressurized liquid form and sprayed onto surfaces to insulate them. Spray-on methods were perfect for irregular surfaces like ship frames and steel buildings.

Typical spray-on insulation of the time contained approximately 85 percent asbestos.

Asbestos Work Environments

Although professional insulators had high asbestos exposure from their products, they were constantly in an environment where other workers also used asbestos materials. Insulators suffered asbestos particle exposure from flooring, roofing, drywall, paint and sealants.

Further, insulators often worked in cramped conditions with poor ventilation.

Insulators became contaminated with asbestos particles on everything they used. That included their materials, tools and clothing. Very few knew how dangerous asbestos exposure was and did little to protect themselves from inhalation, ingestion and skin contact. This made insulators at extreme risk of developing mesothelioma.

Insulators and Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a deadly form of cancer. Asbestos is the sole cause of mesothelioma and it happens when people like insulators are regularly exposed to asbestos. Risk of mesothelioma increases with the amount and duration of asbestos exposure a worker has.

Exposure was inevitable when insulators worked with products producing airborne asbestos fibers. These microscopic particles were inhaled and stuck to the lung or abdominal lining, which is called the mesothelium. Asbestos fibers can’t be expelled, and they remain in the oragn linings, taking decades for health problems to arise.

Compensation for Insulators With Mesothelioma

If you are diagnosed with mesothelioma after working with insulation containing asbestos, monetary compensation is available. There are many court precedents supporting awards covering medical expenses, lost income and punitive damages. Families are allowed to file claims on behalf of members suffering from mesothelioma.

For more information on seeking justice for asbestos exposure as an insulator, contact our Justice Support Team today.

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: May 22, 2019

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