Boilermakers & Asbestos Exposure 

Occupational Asbestos Exposure for Boilermakers 

Boiler workers, including boilermakers and boiler operators, are one of the most at-risk groups for occupational asbestos exposure. Historically, these workers were in close proximity to asbestos and worked directly with the toxic substance every day on the job. In addition to using asbestos as insulation around pipes, boilermakers frequently sprayed asbestos onto various structures to prevent them from suffering heat-related damage in the event of a fire. 

Industrial equipment used in the production of boilers, such as chain falls and slings, often disturbed insulation and other materials that contained asbestos, causing microscopic asbestos fibers to be released into the air where they could then be inhaled by boilermakers, boiler operators, and other workers. As a result, boiler workers have shown the highest rates of occupational exposure to asbestos, as well as a variety of asbestos-related diseases, including asbestos and mesothelioma

How Boilermakers Were Exposed to Asbestos

Because of the immense amounts of heat they generate, along with their combustible nature, boilers pose certain risks. Despite safety features designed to prevent explosions and fires, boilers and boiler rooms can—and often do—catch fire. To help combat this, boilermakers and operators frequently used asbestos to insulate boilers and boiler rooms. 

Asbestos is an abundant, naturally occurring mineral with inherent heat-resistant properties. It is also naturally resistant to corrosion and electricity, making it a popular material for insulation and fire damage prevention in boilers and boiler rooms. Unfortunately, this meant that boiler workers were exposed to high levels of asbestos at work. 

Some of the many ways in which boilermakers and operators were historically exposed to asbestos on the job include: 

  • Installing pre-molded asbestos insulation half-round over pipes 
  • Spraying asbestos onto various structures, including columns and beams
  • Working amongst asbestos materials, such as cement millboard in ceilings 
  • Conducting repairs with asbestos tape, loose asbestos fibers, and other asbestos materials
  • Making asbestos cement to repair broken or damaged pipes 

Today, boilermakers and operators are still at risk of being exposed to asbestos on the job. Most boilers in the United States are more than 40 years old, meaning they still contain asbestos insulation and other asbestos-containing materials. 

Types of Asbestos-Containing Products Used in Boiler Work

For decades, industry standards dictated that all sectional boilers contain some asbestos-containing material. Most commonly, a one-inch layer of asbestos insulation was used to surround the heated components in order to reduce the risk of fire. Additionally, asbestos cement was typically used around boiler stoves as further fire prevention. 

Depending on the manufacturer, asbestos-containing materials in boilers vary but may include any of the following: 

  • Insulation 
  • Cement lining 
  • Sealants
  • Gaskets
  • Valves
  • Bearings
  • Pumps
  • Flanges
  • Flutes
  • Plates
  • Economizers 
  • Heat jackets 
  • Paste lagging 
  • Fire-retardant bricks
  • Hand holes
  • Access windows 

Many manufacturers knowingly used asbestos-containing materials in their boilers throughout the 20th Century, including Weil-McLain, Burnham Corporation, Babcock & Wilcox, Crown Boiler Company, Asbestos Corporation Limited, John Crane Inc., Cleaver-Brooks, Ingersoll Rand, and Foster Wheeler, among others. 

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Rates of Asbestos-Related Illness in Boilermakers

Boiler boilermakers, operators, and other boiler workers are at an increased risk of developing serious asbestos-related diseases. A 2007 study from the Universities of Michigan and Wayne State found that 30% of long-term boilermakers had pleural abnormalities on their imaging scans.

Additionally, independent research conducted in 2019 revealed that airborne asbestos fiber concentration during boiler slag removal was 1.171 fibers per milliliter, a level more than 4.5 times greater than anticipated. This points to an increased potential for occupational asbestos exposure among boiler workers.

Boilermakers have a high risk for the following asbestos-related illnesses: 

  • Asbestosis 
  • Mesothelioma 
  • Pulmonary disease
  • Lung cancer 
  • Larynx cancer 
  • Ovarian cancer 
  • Plaques 

If you or your loved one is or was a boilermaker, it is important that you consult a doctor regarding any symptoms associated with asbestos-related illnesses. Unfortunately, many of these diseases, including mesothelioma, have long latency periods—the period of time between when the initial disease-causing event occurs and when symptoms begin to appear. As a result, mesothelioma may go undetected, undiagnosed, and untreated for many years. 

  • American Association for Justice
  • MATA
  • The Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis

Compensation for Boiler Workers Who Were Exposed to Asbestos on the Job

Asbestos companies, boiler manufacturers, and other entities have known the dangers of asbestos exposure for decades, yet they continued to put workers, their families, and ordinary consumers at risk. Those who have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness or who have lost a loved one due to mesothelioma, asbestos, or another related disease could be entitled to financial compensation. 

Large trusts have been established to pay victims and their families. However, it can be difficult to navigate the legal process without the help of an experienced attorney. We encourage you to contact our team at SWMW Law if you believe you may have a boilermaker asbestos exposure claim. We can help you understand your legal rights and options, as well as pursue the full, fair compensation you and your family are owed.

Get in touch with us today at (855) 744-1922 or reach us online to schedule a free, confidential consultation with a member of our legal team. 

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