Asbestos Exposure Among Plumbers and Pipefitters
Like other construction trades, plumbers and pipefitters have a higher risk of asbestos exposure than the general population. Usually, they work in areas that have been contaminated by asbestos dust without knowing it. Moreover, many plumbing components (such as boilers and pipes) were insulated with the carcinogen to fireproof them. Often, those working in the plumbing and pipefitting industries are not aware of asbestos-related damage for decades.
One UK study of industrial plumbers showed that if a worker experienced asbestos exposure on the job from age 20 to 40, their risk for asbestos-related cancers was about five times more than their risk of dying in a car accident.
Typically, the amount of asbestos a plumber or pipefitter is exposed to depends on the concentration of airborne toxins and the length of exposure time. Other factors (like age, overall health, and smoking habits) can affect a person’s risk of asbestos-linked cancers.
In 2019, 490,200 people were employed as plumbers, pipefitters, or steamfitters in the U.S.
People considered high-risk for mesothelioma should undergo regular health screenings. Early screenings are the best method of catching tumors before they have spread to other areas of the body.
Think you’ve worked somewhere with high asbestos risk? Request a case evaluation to assess your chances for exposure.
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Risk Factors for Plumbers and Pipefitters
Some risk factors can significantly increase plumbers’ and pipefitters’ chances of developing a work-related disease. For instance, working around certain asbestos-containing materials can dramatically increase your cancer risk. Asbestos, a known carcinogen, was used to manufacture plumbing components such as:
Generally, plumbers born between 1940 and 1974 have the highest rates of mesothelioma. Other construction tradesmen born during this time (like carpenters, electricians, and painters) have similarly high mesothelioma rates. Those born after 1980 – when regulations started changing the use of asbestos – have lower rates of mesothelioma. However, new diagnoses of mesothelioma among people born after 1980 suggest a continued risk of toxic exposure to several occupations.
Repeated asbestos exposure increases plumbers’ risk of the following occupational diseases:
- Colon cancer
- Lung cancer
- Occupational pneumonia
- Peritoneal mesothelioma
- Pleural effusion
- Pleural mesothelioma
- Pleural plaque
- Prostate cancer
- Stomach cancer
Symptoms of Occupational Disease
Many of the early symptoms of occupational lung diseases are similar. For example, chest pain and trouble breathing are side effects of several respiratory problems. Consequently, doctors sometimes misdiagnose mesothelioma for another form of cancer.
Most people don’t have any symptoms for years or decades after the exposure. A cough that doesn’t go away (for pleural) and abdominal swelling (for peritoneal) are signs of mesothelioma. General symptoms of mesothelioma include:
- Blood clots
- Feeling tired all the time
- Losing your appetite
- Losing weight without trying
- Uncontrolled sweating
If you have a history of asbestos exposure, consider visiting a doctor with experience treating asbestos-caused illnesses.
Compensation for Asbestos Exposure
People who have been diagnosed with asbestos cancer usually qualify for some legal help. Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance for companies that cover work-related illness and injury. However, retired plumbers and pipefitters are no longer covered by this wage-loss benefits program.
If the illness causes some disability, individuals may qualify for Medicare and Social Security benefits. Also, veterans may be eligible for disability benefits and healthcare coverage from the VA.