Asbestos Exposure in Pipefitters

Pipefitters are tradesmen and women who work with pipes that carry gases, chemicals, and acids through buildings and ships. Many pipefitters have been exposed to asbestos, resulting in deadly and unfair health consequences. Some pipefitters may be diagnosed with mesothelioma, a type of cancer caused by asbestos exposure.

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Pipefitters and Asbestos Exposure

Pipefitters are most likely to be exposed to asbestos through pipe insulation, which used asbestos as a primary ingredient until the mid-1980s.

Asbestos was desirable as an insulating material because it was heat, fire, and water-resistant. It had great soundproofing qualities and was cheap and easy to source.

Before the dangers of asbestos were known, asbestos was used liberally in almost all pipe insulation.

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Risks of Asbestos Exposure Today

Today, pipefitters are likely to come in contact with asbestos when working in older buildings or ships that still have the asbestos pipe insulation. Over time, asbestos-containing pipe insulation breaks down and becomes more friable, putting pipefitters at an even higher risk of accidentally inhaling deadly asbestos fibers.

Pipefitters may also be exposed to asbestos when working with other construction or tradespeople.

Asbestos was used in many different piping materials that are still around today, including:

Repairing or removing these materials can cause asbestos to become airborne. When this happens, everyone in the vicinity is at risk, including pipefitters. It’s crucial that pipefitters take extreme safety precautions whenever working with pipes in older buildings.

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Exposure to asbestos has led to thousands of mesothelioma diagnoses. If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, the Mesothelioma Justice Guide will help you understand your rights and know the next steps.

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Roles and Responsibilities

Pipefitters are responsible for installing, repairing, and maintaining pipe systems. Pipefitters are often lumped together with plumbers, but their roles are quite different.

While plumbers work with water and sewage pipes, pipefitters work with pipes that transport chemicals, gases, and acids.

Pipefitters may also work with large-scale heating and cooling systems, as well as pipes in power and industrial plants. Pipefitters may also work in machine shops and shipyards.

Pipefitters can go by many alternative names, including:

  • Fitters
  • Gasfitters
  • Sprinkler-fitters
  • Steamfitters

“Fitters” is simply an abbreviated form of the general pipefitter title, while steamfitters, gasfitters, and sprinkler-fitters all refer to pipefitters with specialized experience.

Pipefitting is considered a trade and pipefitters will complete an apprenticeship during their introduction to the work. Some pipefitters may attend trade school before this apprenticeship, but many choose not to.

Once their apprenticeship is complete, pipefitters can complete journey- and master-level credentials, earning higher pay levels and respect.

Pipefitters and Mesothelioma

Pipefitters are at risk of developing mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases any time they are working with insulation or other materials that contain asbestos. When disturbed, asbestos releases microscopic fibers into the air and can be unknowingly inhaled.

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The Risk of Inhaling Asbestos Fibers

Once inhaled, these asbestos fibers get stuck in the body’s natural lining, a soft and thin membrane that protects the lungs, heart, and abdomen. Because the body doesn’t have any way to remove foreign materials from its linings, lodged asbestos fibers remain in the body indefinitely.

Over time, asbestos fibers cause nearby cells to mutate from normal, healthy cells into dangerous, cancer cells. Cancer cells that form in these organ lining are called mesothelioma cells and are difficult to detect in their early stages.

Most victims are diagnosed with mesothelioma only after the cells have caused extensive damage to the body.

Mesothelioma is also a slow-forming cancer, taking 20-50 years after the initial exposure to asbestos to display symptoms. Many pipefitters who were exposed to asbestos in the 1970s and 1980s are only just being diagnosed now.

Access Asbestos Trust Funds

Compensation for treatment, loss of income, and other damages is available through Asbestos Trust Funds. Mesothelioma patients and veterans with asbestos-related illnesses may qualify.

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Compensation for Pipefitters

Pipefitters who were exposed to asbestos didn’t recognize the potential dangers to their health, but many pipe insulation manufacturers did.

In fact, insulation manufacturers continued to use asbestos in their products even after they knew the health risks. They profited, all the while knowing their insulation was killing pipefitters.

If you’re a pipefitter diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may qualify for compensation that can help pay for medical bills, family expenses, and other costs.

Our Justice Support Team can help you take legal action and also connect you with medical resources. See all the ways we can help you 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: September 18, 2019

View 7 Sources
  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters,” Retrieved from Accessed on June 24, 2018.
  2. British Journal of Industrial Medicine, “Incidence of cancer among welders, platers, machinists, and pipe fitters…” Retrieved from Accessed on June 24, 2018.
  3. ResearchGate, “ASbestos-related disease in plumbers and pipefitters,” Retrieved from: Accessed on June 24, 2018.
  4. Infrastructure Health & Safety Association, “Pipe Trades,” Retrieved from: Accessed on June 24, 2018.
  5. Boyes Turner Claims, “£40,000 compensation recovered for pipe fitters mate diagnosed with asbestosis” Retrieved from: Accessed on June 24, 2018.
  6. US Department of Labor, “00-2765: Marty Robertson,” Retrieved from Accessed on June 24, 2018.
  7. Mesothelioma Research Foundation of America, “Asbestos Related Disease in Plumbers and Pipefitters…” Retrieved from  Accessed on June 24, 2018.
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