HVAC and Asbestos Exposure
Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) workers are responsible for keeping us cool in the summer and warm in winter. However, the job also puts HVAC workers at risk of exposure to asbestos and several other dangerous chemicals – often in confined spaces. Consequently, workers should avoid touching or moving asbestos-containing materials (ACMs), like vent tape and duct wrap.
In 2019, there were 376,800 HVAC jobs in the U.S., and the field is expected to grow each year over the next decade.
Old, fraying asbestos tape and air duct wrap are a health risk because they can release hazardous fibers into the air. In the air, the fibers are generally too small to see and can stay afloat for several days. Toxic airborne particles can become attached to clothes, skin, and hair. Usually, they are inhaled or swallowed, eventually leading to internal damage.
HVAC Asbestos Duct Tape and Wrap
Until the 1980s, sheet metal used for HVAC air ducts commonly contained asbestos insulation. In many homes, builders often used a cardboard-like material (an asbestos-containing paper) in forced-air heating systems in addition to asbestos ductwork tape.
Contaminated houses and buildings put HVAC maintenance technicians and installers at risk of toxic exposure. Usually, techs work in confined spaces with little ventilation. When they work outside, they may encounter other contaminated construction materials (like asbestos roofing or siding).
Other asbestos-containing products HVAC workers might encounter in homes include:
- Artificial ashes and embers
- Cement sheet
- Door gaskets
- Floor tiles (vinyl, asphalt, and rubber)
- Furnace ducts
- Patching and joint compounds
- Shingles and roofing
- Steam pipes
- Textured spray-on paint (popcorn ceilings)
- Vinyl adhesive
When asbestos-contaminated products get old, they tend to fray or crumble. Even walking by these materials could send microscopic fibers airborne. You could inhale thousands of tiny carcinogens (cancer-causing substances) without knowing it.
Accordingly, families living in contaminated homes and HVAC workers who visit them risk developing long-term asbestos-caused health problems.
Signs of Asbestos-related Cancers
Generally, HVAC workers who breathe in asbestos won’t show any immediate symptoms. In most cases, asbestos-related diseases take many years to develop before they cause noticeable symptoms. However, the toxin is known to cause diseases like:
- Colon cancer
- Lung cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Rectal cancer
- Peritoneal mesothelioma
- Pleural mesothelioma
- Pleural plaques
- Stomach cancer
- Throat cancer
Signs of cancer depend on the location of tumors, but asbestos-caused illnesses often include symptoms like:
- Blood in your phlegm
- Cough that won’t go away
- Feeling pain or tightness in your chest
- Recurrent fever
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling in the abdomen or arms
- Unexplained weight loss
HVAC workers who believe they’ve been exposed to asbestos should get regular health screenings to check for asbestos-related cancers. If you have symptoms of exposure, however, visit a doctor for testing.
Think you’ve worked or lived somewhere with high asbestos risk? Request a case evaluation to assess your chances for exposure.
Evaluate My Case
Workers’ compensation is the most well-known form of compensation for people diagnosed with occupational illness. Yet, workers’ comp may not cover all associated healthcare costs and does not cover retired workers.
For many retirees and their families, a personal injury lawsuit is the best way to seek legal compensation for an asbestos-related illness. Other options include: