Asbestos Exposure in Pipefitters

Summary

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. Pipefitters who worked with pipe insulation and other asbestos-containing materials may be diagnosed with mesothelioma, a type of cancer caused by asbestos exposure.

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. Therefore, pipefitters tend to work in many industrial, manufacturing and commercial settings. Pipefitters may also work in machine shops and shipyards.

Pipefitters can go by many alternative names, including:

  • Fitters
  • Steamfitters
  • Gasfitters
  • Sprinkler-fitters

“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.

Free Mesothelioma Justice Guide

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.

Request Your Free Mesothelioma Justice Guide Now

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.

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 materials that are still around today, including all forms of:

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.

Pipefitters and Mesothelioma

Pipefitters are at risk of developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related health risks 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.

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 10-50 years after the initial exposure to asbestos to display detectable signs. 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.

Find Out If You Qualify

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. Contact the Mesothelioma Justice Network today at  (888) 360-4215 for more information on taking action. Or request our free Mesothelioma Justice Guide for in-depth information on legal compensation and treatment options.

View Author and Sources
Sources
  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters,” Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/plumbers-pipefitters-and-steamfitters.htm Accessed on June 24, 2018.
  2. British Journal of Industrial Medicine, “Incidence of cancer among welders, platers, machinists, and pipe fitters…” Retrieved from http://oem.bmj.com/content/oemed/45/4/209.full.pdf?ck=nck Accessed on June 24, 2018.
  3. ResearchGate, “ASbestos-related disease in plumbers and pipefitters,” Retrieved from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/19283740_Asbestos-related_disease_in_plumbers_and_pipefitters_employed_in_building_construction Accessed on June 24, 2018.
  4. Infrastructure Health & Safety Association, “Pipe Trades,” Retrieved from: https://www.ihsa.ca/pdfs/products/W101-Pipe-Trades.pdf Accessed on June 24, 2018.
  5. Boyes Turner Claims, “£40,000 compensation recovered for pipe fitters mate diagnosed with asbestosis” Retrieved from: https://www.boyesturnerclaims.com/site/our-cases/40k-compensation-for-pipe-fitters-mate-diagnosed-with-asbestosis Accessed on June 24, 2018.
  6. US Department of Labor, “00-2765: Marty Robertson,” Retrieved from https://www.dol.gov/ecab/decisions/2001/Jul/00-2763.htm Accessed on June 24, 2018.
  7. Mesothelioma Research Foundation of America, “Asbestos Related Disease in Plumbers and Pipefitters…” Retrieved from http://mesorfa.org/about-meso/article12b.php  Accessed on June 24, 2018.

Last modified: July 25, 2018