Asbestos Fume Hoods

Fume hoods were being routinely used to handle dangerous substances by scientists and lab workers across the country to protect from dangerous substances. A fume hood acts as a ventilated enclosure where the fumes, vapors and gases are contained. These hoods pull airborne contaminants through the ductwork and send them out to the atmosphere.

While they were designed to keep people safe, they, unfortunately, were fitted with asbestos, which put people at risk in an entirely different way. 

Real Need for Protection

When working with dangerous substances, the need to protect yourself and the people around you in the laboratory is substantial. Before the link between asbestos and mesothelioma was well established, insulation was used as a way of protecting people. Fume hoods were widely used as a safety measure because it was seen as a way to protect workers to minimize the risk of exposure to these dangerous substances. 

Fume hoods act as the first line of defense for people in the laboratory by minimizing chemical exposure.

Why They Used Asbestos-Based Products

Asbestos-based products were used for this purpose because the mineral has fireproof, waterproof and heatproof qualities. These products were used in shelves, transite liners and fume pipes as a way of preventing accidents by eliminating flames and containing excessive heat. It was believed that this was a much safer working environment, but not realizing the hidden danger that these people were being exposed to. 

The Workers at the Highest Risk

People who were at the highest risk included the chemical plant workers and the scientists as these were the people who worked with the fume hoods the most. In addition, anyone who was connected to the same ventilation system could be exposed because as these fibers became airborne, they would travel and contaminate everything in their path. Over time, these hoods began to break down, and this led to greater exposure, ultimately leading to asbestosis and cancer. 

A variety of professions may have been exposed in this way, including:

  • Janitors and cleaners
  • Scientists
  • Administration staff
  • Family members
  • Fume hood manufacturers

Secondary exposure also occurred. If someone was working with the asbestos-based products, the carcinogenic fibers got into their clothes and when they went home for the day, they brought it to their family members who also breathed it in. There are documented cases of people who developed illness from secondary exposure. Researchers have linked this product to serious health problems, mesothelioma is one with a low survival rate. The average life expectancy for patients with mesothelioma is only 12 to 21 months. Meanwhile, only nine percent will live longer than five years.