Occupation Exposure

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Plumbers have an interesting job that often means they have to lift heavy materials, climb ladders and squeeze into tight spaces.

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It can be a somewhat dangerous job, and they often come aboard as part of a team of construction workers who might work in close coordination with steamfitters and pipefitters for the large-scale construction jobs. You might have to fix problems with plumbing or maybe you have to install a new one altogether. The job varies greatly.

Responding to Problems

A plumber has a job to fix the leaks and blockages that can sometimes pop up inside of a home. Outside of being part of a construction team, they also sometimes work on the projects themselves. For example, they might receive a phone call from a distraught homeowner that their sewage system has started to back up. The plumber goes in and fixes the problem. They might also be called to a site to help with installing a big appliance like a dishwasher, garbage disposal or laundry machine. You have a variety of projects that plumbers work on.

Risk of Exposure

One of the risks that plumbing professionals often don’t take into consideration is asbestos exposure. Because they’re crawling into tight spaces and installing new appliances, it can sometimes be a major threat. They might be doing a house call to a home that is older and had this substance installed in it back before it was known to be dangerous.

The problem is how this can expose plumbers to a new kind of danger. Many of the plumbing products that manufacturers made from the 1930s to the 1970s were made with asbestos-related products.

Some of the different products that you might encounter as a plumber include:

  • Thermal insulation

  • Cement

  • Joint compunds

  • Gaskets

  • Valves

  • Pipe block

  • Welding rods

Exposure on the Job

A plumber does a variety of tasks, and in some cases, they will work with products that may even contain asbestos-related materials. The problem with disturbing some of these materials is that once it has been disturbed, it will enter the air where it can be breathed in. This can lead to problems. When the fibers get inhaled, it can be difficult to get rid of. In fact, sometimes it remains within the body until the death of the individual.

Not to mention, this material will have a negative impact on your lungs because it’s been proven to cause inflammation and scarring of the lung tissues. The biggest problem is how it can take decades before it manifests as cancer or asbestosis.

One of the big problems that pop up with the risk is how many of the products before the 1970s used asbestos-related products because of how it was thought to be heat and fire resistant. It’s true that this mineral is fire resistant, but the dangers shouldn’t be underestimated. Handling these gaskets, pumps and valves all comes with a risk. After a while, the internal components of a plumber system start to rust and need replacement. When the plumber goes to remove this product, the fibers will often get released where the workers might inhale the contaminants.

Scientific Research

Based on a report from 2007, a plumber is at risk of asbestos-related exposure because of how he often disturbs the materials that contain these contaminants. Even when the contaminants have been removed, you should never fully assume that you will be safe. In fact, some studies suggest that poor cleanup and removal can still lead to the same problems. It poses a real risk to a plumber.

In one study from the UA, 7,121 members participated in this study from 1960 to 1979, and they found how 16 of them had died as a result of mesothelioma.

In addition, the study learned how plumbing professionals, auto mechanics and welders all were at risk of lung diseases like cancer because of asbestos. When people were interviewed, researchers discovered how this profession had put people at an increased risk for this type of exposure.

Numerous lawsuits have popped up against companies over the years. In fact, Larry Stewart, a previous employee of Union Carbide, won $7.7 million as a result of exposure to asbestos-related products throughout his career. From 1968 until 2007, Stewart was a proud plumber, but he was diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Looking back on some of the projects he worked on, he realized how he had been exposed to these contaminants through drywallers and joint compounds. As you can see, the danger to a plumber is real while on the job, and if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with one of these asbestos-related illnesses, you could be entitled to some much-needed compensation.

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