Mechanical Engineers and Asbestos Exposure
Mechanical engineers are required in many industries, including architectural, manufacturing, and transportation services. Many mechanical engineers also work in general-purpose machinery environments, operating on automotive parts and large machines.
Working with moving parts is a dangerous job in itself, but this line of work may also put mechanical engineers in contact with asbestos. Asbestos exposure is now known to cause rare diseases such as mesothelioma.
Mechanical engineers were most at risk of coming into contact with asbestos from the 1930s until the early 1980s. It was during this time that the toxic substance was widely used. Thousands of workers have become ill or lost their lives after inhaling asbestos fibers.
A 2001 article looking at the connection of asbestos with mesothelioma found that mechanical engineering was one of the professions that showed a significantly elevated number of deaths due to the disease.
Asbestos was used for insulation and fireproofing, as it served as an excellent resistor to heat. It was used to cover electrical wires, pipes containing chemicals, and boilers. It was also frequently used to make brakes and gaskets, to help against friction.
Nowadays, asbestos is an internationally recognized occupational hazard and is illegal in over 50 countries, the U.S. unfortunately not included.
A mesothelioma victim in the UK was awarded compensation posthumously after coming into contact with asbestos during his years as a mechanical engineer.
Before the 1970s, there were little to no safety precautions provided regarding asbestos, and in some cases, it was believed to protect workers against fires. The victim filed a lawsuit against his former employee, though sadly passed away before he could benefit from the payout.