Industrial Products Containing Asbestos
Asbestos was commonly used in many industrial materials and equipment through the 1980s, and the deadly material continues to be used today in countless products sold in the United States.
Those who work or worked with asbestos-containing materials are at risk of developing mesothelioma and other related diseases decades after they were initially exposed.
If you or a loved one worked with the following equipment and have developed an asbestos-related disease, you should contact us now to learn about your legal options:
Compensation for Asbestos Diseases
Industrial workers and veterans who were exposed to asbestos can develop mesothelioma and other diseases 15 to 60 years after exposure. If you or a loved one is struggling to cope with an asbestos disease, you need to learn more about your legal options.
Contact us today to discuss what types of compensation you may be entitled to.
Valves are devices that control the flow of fluids (liquids, gasses, and slurries) by opening and closing a passageway (such as a pipe).
Valves come in a huge range of designs and control all types of flows. The simplest valves control flow only, while complex valves control the rate, volume, pressure, and direction of fluid flow.
Valves range in size from less than an inch to 30 feet in diameter and handle fluids as diverse as superheated steam, radioactive materials, molten metal, water, oil, and chemicals.
Virtually every industrial process uses valves.
Regardless of valve design and use, all valves have some features in common, including packing material, used to create a seal between the valve stem and bonnet, and gaskets that seal the junction between a valve’s bonnet and body. Valves may also be externally insulated for temperature-control purposes.
Asbestos was once a popular additive to gaskets, packing material, and insulation. Tradespeople who worked on valves with asbestos-containing materials may have inhaled or ingested asbestos fibers, putting them at risk for developing mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other health problems.
Valve Types and Applications
Valves can be classified based on the way the valving element controls fluid flow.
- Ball valves have a round, bored element that opens or closes with a quarter-turn.
- Butterfly valves regulate flow with a disc-type element that opens or closes with a quarter-turn.
- Globe valves have a plug that is raised and lowered with a handled stem.
- Gate valves have a vertical disc element that raises and lowers.
- Diaphragm valves have a flexible element that pinches down and creates a seal.
These and other types of valves are used by industries that include:
- Power generation
- Food processing
- Shipbuilding and repair
Valves and Asbestos Exposure
Because they must resist high pressure, extreme heat, and corrosive chemicals, gaskets and packing are made from materials such as asbestos.
Asbestos is an extremely tough mineral fiber that doesn’t easily break down under heat or chemicals, which is why it was commonly added to gaskets and packing.
But asbestos also doesn’t break down in the body. Inhaled fibers remain in the lungs and can eventually lead to scarring and tumors.
Valve gaskets and packing degrade over time and need to be regularly replaced to prevent leaks. These materials are often in a friable state when removed and must be scraped off with a scraper and/or wire brush. Removing asbestos gaskets and packing in this way created asbestos dust that was breathed in by workers.
Workers in some cases also had to remove a valve’s external insulation so that internal components could be accessed. Like gaskets and packing, insulation was once commonly made with asbestos. When broken apart and removed, asbestos-containing insulation created dust.
Tradespeople in the following fields may have been exposed to asbestos from valve gaskets, packing, and insulation:
- Millwrights and maintenance mechanics
- Navy yard workers
If you worked with asbestos valves and have now been diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact us today to discuss your legal options.
A turbine is a machine that captures energy from a moving fluid and uses it to perform work.
Turbines have rotating blades that are spun by the force of water, steam, gas, or wind. As the blades spin, they rotate a shaft or axle that in turn drives some type of machine — often an electric generator.
Virtually every form of electric power, whether it derives from the burning of fossil fuels or alternative energy sources such as nuclear, wind or water, is generated by turbines.
Turbines often use superheated steam or gas and require insulation for operating efficiency and worker protection. Asbestos insulation was used in and on turbines in the past and resulted in workers being exposed to the dangerous material, which can cause mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other diseases.
How Turbines Are Used
Turbine engines are simple machines that play a crucial role in our complex societies. Common uses of turbines include:
- Generating electricity at fossil fuel and nuclear power plants
- Producing renewable energy from windmills and hydroelectric plants
- Aircraft jet engines
- Ship propulsion systems
- Powering industrial machines such as pumps and compressors
- Providing heat and electricity to mills and factories
Turbines and Asbestos Exposure
Asbestos-containing turbine insulation took a few different forms, including blankets, block, cement, and spray-on.
Turbines sometimes were installed at power plants, and workers would need to insulate the machines before they went online. Asbestos insulation would also need to be removed from inside turbines and from the exterior of turbines when they were periodically disassembled for maintenance or repair, and then reapplied upon completion of the work. Old, degraded insulation would also need to be replaced from time to time.
In addition to asbestos insulation, turbines had asbestos gaskets that would need to be removed and replaced. The gaskets were typically baked on by turbines’ immense heat and needed to be scraped off, creating asbestos dust.
Turbines also had associated lines, pipes, pumps, and valves that were insulated with asbestos and contained asbestos gaskets and packing. Working on this equipment provided yet another source of asbestos exposure.
Anyone who worked with or around the asbestos materials on turbines may have inhaled microscopic asbestos fibers. Dust could also be carried home on workers’ clothing and body, thereby exposing family members to asbestos.
Workers who may have been exposed to asbestos from work on turbines include:
- Aircraft mechanics
- Navy yard workers
- Merchant marines
- Maintenance mechanics
- Power plant workers
- Factory and mill workers
If you worked with turbines and have now been diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact us today to discuss your legal options.
A pump is a machine designed to move fluids. Industrial pumps are typically part of a larger system and are used to transport fluids — such as water, steam, chemicals, and oil — within that system.
Pumps use packing material as sealing devices to control leaking. They also have gaskets that seal junctions between pump surfaces and between the pump and connected piping.
In the past, pump packing and gaskets were commonly made of asbestos. Pumps used in high-temperature applications may also have been insulated with asbestos-containing materials.
Tradespeople who worked on pumps with asbestos packing, gaskets, and insulation were exposed to asbestos, which can cause mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other diseases.
Industrial Pump Uses
Industry uses many types and sizes of pumps to move many types of fluids. Here are a few examples of industrial pump functions:
- Power plants use pumps to circulate boiler feed water, cooling water, and condensate.
- Food processing plants use pumps in automated wash systems, for vacuum sealing, and for pumping food products.
- The chemical industry uses pumps to transport wastewater and to supply solvents and product additives.
- Automotive plant pumps circulate cutting oil for machining and metalworking processes.
- Agricultural pumps supply water for irrigation and handle manure slurry.
Pumps and Asbestos Exposure
Routine inspection, maintenance, and repair activities performed on pumps could have exposed tradespeople to asbestos.
- Pump packing, which needs to be regularly replaced, is often in a friable state when removed. Removing old packing created asbestos dust that was breathed in by workers.
- Opening up a pump for repairs revealed asbestos-containing gaskets. Like packing, asbestos-containing gaskets needed to be removed — often by scraping with a wire brush — and replaced. This was a dusty process that exposed workers to asbestos.
- Many pumps were externally insulated with asbestos-containing materials. Before a pump could be worked on, workers had to remove insulation by breaking it apart. Workers also had to reapply the pump insulation that they removed. Both removing and reapplying pump asbestos insulation was a dusty process that exposed workers to asbestos.
Tradespeople who may have been exposed to asbestos through pump work include plumbers, maintenance mechanics, pipefitters, millwrights, Navy yard workers, and Merchant Marines.
If you worked with pump equipment and have now been diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact us today to discuss your legal options.
Boilers generate steam that is used in a wide range of industrial processes, from electrical generation and manufacturing to cleaning and food making. Boilers also produce heat for commercial and industrial buildings and were once used by the military for steam propulsion of vessels.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned the use of asbestos block insulation on boilers in 1975. Prior to then, asbestos insulation was commonly used on and inside boilers as well as on associated steam piping, valves, pumps, soot blowers, and other components. Asbestos was also used in gaskets to seal boiler joints and doors.
Many tradespeople who worked on and around boilers in the past were exposed to asbestos, and asbestos exposure can still occur from older boilers.
How Boilers Work
Industrial boilers are very similar to the boilers that are used to heat homes. In both types, a fuel — typically natural gas, oil, or coal — is burned and heats water into steam. The steam is then carried by pipes to heaters, turbines, and other equipment that uses the steam to perform work.
The principal differences between residential and industrial boilers are size and output. Residential boilers are small enough to fit in a closet space and have a capacity of roughly 50,000 – 100,000 BTUs (British Thermal Units), and industrial boilers stand up to six stories tall and produce millions of BTUs.
Boilers and Asbestos Exposure
Boilers and the piping networks they’re connected to are heavily insulated to prevent heat loss and increase steam system efficiency. In the past, this insulation was made from asbestos.
A typical application of boiler asbestos insulation involved applying two layers of block insulation, which was then plastered with asbestos cement. The asbestos cement product started out as a powder that had to be mixed with water, a process that created large amounts of asbestos dust.
Block asbestos insulation and cement asbestos insulation were not only applied to new boilers, but also removed and replaced as needed due to wear and tear and for repair work. Tearing down and reapplying insulation was a dusty process that exposed nearby workers to asbestos.
Asbestos-containing materials were also used:
- Inside boilers (refractory cement)
- On boiler doors, access windows, plates, flues, and manholes
- Where the boiler connects to piping and other equipment
- In the packing and gaskets of boiler components such as valves and pumps
Industrial boiler inspection, repair, or maintenance activities could disturb asbestos insulation and other asbestos-containing materials and expose workers. Tradespeople who may have been exposed to asbestos during boiler work include boilermakers, firefighters, millwrights, navy yard workers, Merchant Marine seamen, painters, and maintenance mechanics.
If you worked with or around boilers and have now been diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact us today to discuss your legal options.
Drum brakes and disc brakes use friction to slow or stop vehicles and mechanical devices.
Drum braking systems use brake shoes to apply pressure to a rotating drum that is connected to a wheel hub, while disc brake pads press against both sides of a disc attached to a wheel. Both brake types contain friction material that converts kinetic energy into heat energy. Some brake systems have friction material made of asbestos.
Asbestos brake components are not banned in the United States. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), asbestos-containing disc brake pads, drum brake linings, and brake blocks are still in use. The EPA in the 1990s tried to get the major brake companies to sign a voluntary agreement to stop using asbestos, but the asbestos industry blocked the effort.
Most brakes contained asbestos and can produce dust that may cause asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis. Because these diseases have a latency period of 15 to 60 years, mechanics who worked with asbestos brakes in past decades may only now display symptoms.
Asbestos Brake Uses
The automotive industry continues to use asbestos-containing brakes on both new vehicles and in replacement brake parts for older vehicles. Asbestos-containing brakes are (or were in the past) also used on other types of machines, including:
- Railroad locomotives and cars
- Motorcycles and scooters
- Commercial trucks and buses
- Golf carts
- Fork lifts
- Agricultural and construction vehicles
- Cranes, hoists, and winches
- Elevators and material hoists
- Washing machines and dryers
Brakes and Asbestos Exposure
Mechanics can be exposed to asbestos by replacing or repairing asbestos brake parts.
Dust is generated by the machining and glazing of brake linings before installation. The machining (or “scuffing up”) of friction materials is done to ensure that new brakes aren’t too smooth and grab properly. Brake components may also need to be drilled, grooved, cut, beveled, or lathe-turned prior to installation. These processes can similarly create dust.
Although the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) and the EPA have established safety guidelines — such as enclosing the brake assembly and using a HEPA vacuum to remove dust — for workers who handle asbestos brakes, there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Even brief and/or isolated exposure to asbestos dust can result in long-term health problems.
Occupations that are at risk for asbestos exposure from brake components include automotive mechanics, aircraft mechanics, and Navy yard workers.
Home mechanics face the same exposure risks as professionals and should consider having brake work performed at a commercial shop if they are unable to determine whether their brakes contain asbestos.
If you worked with asbestos brakes and have now been diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact us today to discuss your legal options.
Asbestos Storage Tanks
Storage tanks are large containers for holding liquids, gases, and other materials. Many tanks require insulation to keep the materials they hold at a particular temperature. Tanks were once commonly insulated with asbestos. Some tanks were also constructed from asbestos-containing cement.
A variety of industries used tanks insulated with or made from asbestos materials, leading many workers to be exposed to asbestos.
Types and Uses of Industrial Tanks
Industrial tanks come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and materials and serve a number of different purposes, including:
- In the oil and gas industry, tanks are used to store fuels.
- The mining industry stores water and wastewater in tanks.
- The power generation industry uses tanks to hold fuel oil and feed water.
- Tanks used by the chemical and pharmaceutical industries store products such as acids and solvents.
- The paper industry uses tanks for water, condensate, chemicals, waste mixture, and pulp.
- Tanks used by the agricultural industry store fertilizers, pesticides and seed treatment products.
Large storage tanks have non-industrial uses as well. Municipalities, for example, store water and water treatment chemicals in large tanks. And similar to the hot water tank in your home, factories, offices, university buildings, and other large buildings have high-capacity hot water storage tanks. Military facilities and Navy vessels also have water storage tanks.
Asbestos Exposure from Tanks
Tanks must be inspected, cleaned, painted, and repaired from time-to-time. When they reach the end of their useful life, tanks must be replaced. Permanent structures such as old concrete water storage towers are typically demolished and replaced by new tanks made from steel or reinforced plastic.
Disturbing tank insulation during maintenance, inspection, repair, or demolition can expose workers to asbestos. Asbestos-containing concrete also poses a threat, especially older concrete that has begun to degrade. Some concrete tanks have an asbestos coating on the interior that is only detected once demolition begins. Tanks also may contain asbestos gaskets.
Workers who may be exposed to asbestos from tanks include painters, plumbers, maintenance mechanics, welders, foundry workers, paper mill workers, power plant workers, Navy Yard workers, millwrights, and pipefitters.
If you worked with asbestos storage tanks and have now been diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact us today to discuss your legal options.
Asbestos Pipe Insulation
Heating pipes and water pipes require insulation to control condensation, prevent freezing, save energy, control noise, and protect against injury from extreme temperatures.
Asbestos-containing pipe insulation was used extensively in buildings beginning in the latter half of the 19th century and continuing until 1975, when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a ban on certain types of asbestos pipe insulation.
Workers who installed and/or removed asbestos pipe insulation were exposed to asbestos and are at risk for developing mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other diseases. Where it remains in older buildings, asbestos pipe insulation continues to pose a health threat.
Types of Asbestos Pipe Insulation
Asbestos insulation was applied to pipes in many different forms, including:
- Pre-formed (molded)
- Wet-applied cement
- Corrugated air-cell
- Blanket (cloth)
- Asbestos paper tape
In addition to asbestos insulation applied to pipes, some pipes are actually made from asbestos cement. Asbestos cement pipe (commonly known as “Transite”) is not banned and is primarily used for potable water distribution systems and sewer lines. Asbestos-containing pipeline wrap, according to the EPA, is also not banned.
Asbestos Exposure from Pipe Insulation
Insulation is one of the more dangerous forms of asbestos-containing materials because it is considered friable — meaning that it can be crumbled, pulverized, or reduced to powder by hand pressure.
Friable asbestos is extremely hazardous because of its ability to become airborne and be breathed in by workers and building occupants. Older asbestos insulation is in a particularly friable state.
Workers may be exposed to asbestos from pipe insulation in the following ways:
- Sawing and cutting pipe insulation
- Fitting and fastening pipe insulation
- Applying spray-on pipe insulation
- Mixing powder-form cement insulation with water
- Tearing out old insulation
- Removing sections of insulation to access pipes for maintenance
Workers at Risk
Workers at risk of asbestos exposure from pipe insulation include not only pipe coverers and other insulation workers, but also tradespeople working in the vicinity of insulators and tradespeople working on or around pipework. This includes electricians, carpenters, painters, maintenance mechanics, pipefitters, millwrights, and laborers.
Veteran and civilian Navy Yard workers and Merchant Marine seamen may also have been exposed to asbestos from pipe insulation used on ships.
If you worked with asbestos pipe insulation and have now been diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact us today to discuss your legal options.
Asbestos Joint Compound
Joint compound, also known as sheetrock, drywall compound, or simply as “mud,” is used to finish drywall.
Until the late 1970s, many types of drywall compound contained asbestos. Workers who used asbestos-containing joint compound were exposed to asbestos, and nearby workers were also at risk. In older buildings with asbestos joint compound, exposure remains a risk.
Workers may develop mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other asbestos-related diseases 15 to 60 years after being exposed to asbestos joint compound.
How Joint Compound Is Used
Drywall (aka wallboard, plasterboard, Sheetrock, or “rock”) is screwed to wall studs and ceiling joists to create a smooth, paintable interior surface.
The joints between drywall sheets are filled with joint compound and covered with drywall joint tape. Screw holes and corners are also covered with mud and/or tape. When the compound dries, it is sanded and a second coat is then applied. This process is repeated again for a total of three coats of joint compound. Sometimes, a third coat (or skim coat) of compound is applied lightly to the entire wall surface to create a completely smooth finish.
In addition to its use in drywall installation, joint compound is used to fill cracks, patch holes, and even out rough spots on walls and ceilings.
Joint compound is sold as either a pre-mixed paste or as a powder that is mixed with water.
Joint Compound and Asbestos Exposure
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which approved a ban on asbestos-containing patching compounds in 1977, about half of all patching compounds sold contained asbestos at the time the ban went into effect. CPSC issued the ban because it believed that joint compounds and similar products containing asbestos could cause high rates of respiratory cancer among people who used them for just a few days per year.
CPSC describes two ways that asbestos fibers from joint compounds can become airborne and then be inhaled:
- Sanding or scraping the compound after application
- Mixing a dry form of compound with water prior to application
Asbestos fibers from joint compounds can also become airborne during the demolition, repair, or renovation of older buildings.
Asbestos joint compound may be found anywhere drywall is used. It is not possible to identify asbestos joint compound by sight alone. Samples of suspect asbestos materials must be taken and sent to a laboratory for analysis. Do not attempt to take samples unless you have asbestos hazards training.
Workers at risk of asbestos exposure from joint compound include drywall installers (also known as framers, hangers, drywall tapers, or finishers), plasterers, painters, carpenters, electricians, laborers, and other tradespeople who either mixed or sanded joint compound or were in the immediate vicinity of these activities.
If you worked with asbestos joint compound and have now been diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact us today to discuss your legal options.
Asbestos Electrical Equipment
Electrical equipment includes components of an electrical distribution system as well as machines with electronic parts.
Asbestos was once used in a wide range of electrical equipment. Working with asbestos-containing electrical equipment caused electricians to be exposed to carcinogenic asbestos fibers. Asbestos exposure causes numerous health problems, including mesothelioma, lung cancer, and lung scarring.
Types of Electrical Equipment Containing Asbestos
Asbestos was used for electrical applications because asbestos fibers do not conduct electricity and are resistant to heat and fire. Not all electrical equipment contains asbestos, and asbestos electrical equipment was largely phased out by around 1980. Older equipment, however, including the following types, may contain asbestos:
- Electrical wire, cable, and conduit
- Electrical breakers
- Electrical panels, panel partitions, and backing boards
- Electric boxes and cabinets
- Arc chutes
- Molded plastic casings for switches and controllers
- Controller boxes for motors, generators, and other equipment
In addition to electrical distribution system equipment, many electric machines and appliances had motors, coils, wiring, or gaskets containing asbestos. Among them were:
- Heating and cooking equipment
- Lighting equipment
- Machine tools
- Industrial ovens and furnaces
- Laundry equipment
- Vacuum cleaners
- Motors and generators
- Radio and TV units
- Electric signs and advertising displays
- Refrigeration and air conditioning units
Virtually every major industry had asbestos-containing electrical equipment, including agriculture, construction, mining, oil and gas, food processing, paper and pulp, textile, power generation, aerospace, automotive, manufacturing, railroads, and docks and shipyards. The military also made use of asbestos electrical equipment on ships and in buildings.
Electrical Equipment and Asbestos Exposure
Electricians who work with asbestos-containing electrical equipment are at risk for developing mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases. Electrician activities that can create airborne asbestos fibers include:
- Cutting or stripping electrical wiring or cable that contains asbestos insulation
- Installing electrical panels and partitions
- Rewiring electrical systems
- Maintaining and cleaning circuit breaker panels
- Working on boilers, generators, turbines, pumps, valves, and other equipment with asbestos-containing parts and insulation
Electricians face a dual exposure risk from asbestos electrical equipment and from other asbestos-containing equipment, building materials, and insulation. Asbestos was once used to make ceiling tiles, wallboard, siding, flooring, paint, decorative plaster, patching compounds, and insulation. Electricians routinely cut through surfaces made from these asbestos-containing materials in order to install new wiring, and doing so exposes them to asbestos dust.
Electricians also work on machinery such as pumps, valves, turbines, and boilers on Navy ships and in power plants and other industrial settings. This machinery may be covered with asbestos insulation that must be removed so that the electrician can access necessary components. Removing and reinstalling asbestos insulation can put electricians in danger.
Finally, electricians can be exposed to asbestos from the cutting, drilling, sawing, cutting, sanding, and demolition of asbestos-containing materials by others workers.
This confluence of exposure risks makes electricians one of the most at-risk groups for developing asbestos diseases such as mesothelioma and lung cancer.
If you worked with asbestos electrical equipment and have now been diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact us today to discuss your legal options.