Plumbers

Plumbers are hardworking, versatile tradespeople who work in residential, commercial, and industrial construction. Unfortunately, many plumbers were exposed to life-threatening asbestos during the course of their everyday work. Asbestos exposure is dangerous and can lead to health issues, including an aggressive type of cancer called mesothelioma.

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Plumbers and Asbestos Exposure

Between the 1920s and 1980s, asbestos was commonly used in countless building projects. All plumbers during that era worked with asbestos daily. Most plumbers took asbestos for granted and had no idea of long-term health risks presented by asbestos exposure.

Asbestos was thought to be a perfect additive to many products used by plumbers. It’s an inert material with excellent thermal transfer properties. Many hot water pipes were asbestos-wrapped, keeping temperatures uniform and constant.

Asbestos is also fire-resistant, making it safe for plumbers to cut, weld, and braze. Also, asbestos is non-corrosive, so steel pipes were protected from rust. Finally, asbestos was inexpensive, easy to work with and widely available.

Plumbers weren’t aware of the dangers of asbestos and many were exposed daily due to the nature of their work. Unfortunately, exposure to asbestos can have deadly consequences.

How Plumbers Were Exposed to Asbestos

Plumbers are exposed to asbestos when asbestos dust and fibers become airborne. During plumbing work, these fibers release into the air in two ways.

The first is by manually modifying asbestos materials that dislodge tiny fibers, which become airborne. Most asbestos plumbing materials are relatively safe and stable once installed, sealed, and left alone.

However, that didn’t happen until plumbers cut, sawed, sanded, and scraped their products to fit and finish jobs.

Manual manipulation causes asbestos fibers to become airborne, presenting a significant health hazard for plumbers.

The other equally dangerous process for creating asbestos dust is tearing apart old products where asbestos breaks down and becomes dust. No matter which process creates asbestos dust, both can put plumbers in harm’s way.

Plumbing Projects and Asbestos Exposure

Plumbers were exposed to asbestos through many products. Some were in new materials installed in current construction projects. Other materials were in old buildings they repaired or maintained.

Another peril for plumbers was working in an environment where other trades cut and installed asbestos products. Asbestos was prevalent in drywall, flooring, paint, and insulation. Many plumbers were just as contaminated by other trades as they were by their own work.

Asbestos Products Used in Plumbing

Asbestos was once thought to be an advanced plumbing material and was used in many plumbing products.

Some asbestos-containing plumbing products include:

Plumber Careers

Plumbers are a subset of skilled tradespeople who specialize in installing and repairing closed piping systems. The overall group includes pipefitters and steamfitters who work on larger infrastructure projects than most plumbers.

Plumbing is a respectable trade taking years to learn and become competent. All plumbers start out as apprentices and go to trade school. They get field experience with hands-on training.

After 4-6 years, apprentice plumbers receive their journeyman’s papers, or trade qualification (TQ) ticket.

Plumbers are required to handle many different tools and equipment pieces. Most plumbers work with pressure and non-pressurized water systems. Some plumbers cross over into fire suppression systems, but regular plumbers usually don’t work on gas, steam or chemical delivery systems.

New Construction

Plumbers work across the entire building construction industry, including new construction. Each spectrum has its distinct processes, materials, and equipment.

Some new construction plumber responsibilities include:

  • Building pressurized hot and cold water runs
  • Commercial plumbing jobs at new offices, warehouses, and hotels
  • Connecting tanks and reservoirs
  • Cutting, welding, and gluing materials
  • Industrial plumbing sites in factories, hospitals, and schools
  • Installing new drain, waste, plumbing fixtures, and vent pipes
  • Renovation
  • Residential plumbing for single and multi-family housing projects

Many plumbers were also employed as service technicians in large complexes. The renovation industry required plumbers to remove antiquated pipes and fixtures, and then install new products. Plumbers also had to make emergency repairs in homes and commercial settings.

Renovation plumbers employ in these roles:

  • Fitting new pieces and piping
  • Removing and replacing pipe systems
  • Repair calls for fixing blockages and broken parts

Asbestos use in the plumbing industry was common for seven decades. Although asbestos was controlled and phased out by the mid-1980s, many plumbers continued being exposed to asbestos in old products. That risk remains today when plumbers encounter vintage asbestos materials.

Plumber Health Risks

Mesothelioma is a deadly form of cancer. Asbestos exposure is the sole cause of mesothelioma, and it happens when plumbers and other workers breathe in asbestos dust.

Asbestos particles are tiny shards that impale the lung or abdominal linings. They are impossible to remove and cause scar tissue as the body attempts to deal with the irritation.

Eventually, irritated tissues trigger the development of cancer cells, which form into mesothelioma tumors. It can take 20-50 years after exposure for mesothelioma symptoms to develop. This happens without most mesothelioma victims realizing they were a ticking bomb.

Help for Mesothelioma Victims

If you are one of the many plumbers who developed mesothelioma by exposure to workplace asbestos, you may be eligible for compensation.

You can receive compensation by filing a lawsuit against asbestos companies. Compensation can help pay for your medical costs, loss of income, and other expenses.

Families also can sue on behalf of members with mesothelioma as well as for wrongful death claims.

Before filing a claim, make sure to contact an experienced mesothelioma lawyer to advise you of your legal rights. Contact our Justice Support Team to get a free case review 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 5, 2019

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