The process of welding, which is joining two metal parts together, requires an intense amount of heat. The heat from welding can cause damage to the welding rod, which is the welder’s primary tool.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that protected many work tools from overheating and heat damage. This is why asbestos was an insulant for welding rods, to protect them from fire or heat destruction.
While asbestos protected welding equipment, it was harmful for the workers who used welding rods and anyone who was in the vicinity — everyone who was a welder by profession.
The presence of asbestos in welding equipment causes a heightened risk of asbestos-related diseases — primarily mesothelioma — among welders.
Welders who already are diagnosed, or who know someone diagnosed, should reach out to the Mesothelioma Guide patient advocates. We can help you find treatment and get financial help. Email our lead patient advocate, Karen Ritter, at email@example.com.
How Are Welders Exposed to Asbestos?
Asbestos is a fire-resistant and durable mineral, which explains why it coated heat-producing machinery and tools like welding rods. However, asbestos that stays attached to welding rods isn’t dangerous. The issue for welders is the mineral rarely stays completely intact on the tool.
Welders use the rod to liquefy metal (or steel) using heat. Doing so allows welders to combine two pieces of metal together. They also cut and adjust pieces using welding equipment.
Using the rod on a metal or steel plate or object sends sparks and smoke into the air. Asbestos is made up of fragile and flaky strands, almost like pieces of fabric. The use of a welding rod on metal causes a disturbance in the asbestos mixture. These strands would loosen and separate from the rod, and their weightless characteristic led to floating in the airspace of welders.
Once asbestos fibers become airborne, they’re dangerous. Their sharp ends can piece into tissue linings and irritate cells, which causes cancer.
How Often Was Asbestos in Welding?
Welding and the use of welding rods are practical in numerous American industries. Any jobs that require adjusting the shape of metal or combining two pieces likely involves a welding rod. Railroad, automobile repair, power plant and construction work are just a few industries involving metal or steel objects and parts.
This means welding was one of the top uses of asbestos. Few professions were part of so many different fabrics of America’s industrial rise.
Mesothelioma for welders is a grave concern, all linked to the use of asbestos in welding rods and other aspects of the job. Mesothelioma is one of the rarest cancers in the world, and it affects many blue-collar jobs like welding.
Rates of Mesothelioma for Welders
Mesothelioma often forms near the lungs — in a thin membrane called the pleura, which separates the lung cavity and chest wall. Evidence of fibers reaching lung tissue means fibers can reach the pleura.
In an American Journal of Epidemiology report, welders had an increased risk of developing lung cancer from asbestos. They also had an increased risk of developing mesothelioma. Safety and Health at Work published similar findings about welders and mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma can also form near the abdominal cavity. This type is called peritoneal mesothelioma.
A study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine details how welders often retain asbestos fibers near their lungs. Researchers analyzed 211 welders and found that 82 (39%) had elevated levels of asbestos particles in lung tissue or fluid samples.
Researchers and Georgetown University and Duke University tried to quantify the mesothelioma risk among steel and metal workers. They found 43 reported cases of mesothelioma among the 1,445 occupation-related mesothelioma diagnoses. Welders ranked 9th among all types of jobs, trailing high-exposure jobs like construction, shipyard workers, electricians and more.
Examples of Cases for Mesothelioma and Welders
The link between welding and mesothelioma has pushed manufacturing companies to face victims in legal disputes. For instance, Lincoln Electric, founded in 1906, makes arc-welding rods and other cutting equipment. The company faces multiple legal claims alleging their equipment exposed people to asbestos.
According to the company’s annual report in 2019, more than 3,000 people have filed claims against Lincoln Electric. As of December 31, 2019, we were a co-defendant in cases alleging asbestos induced illness involving claims by approximately 3,233 plaintiffs.
Since 1995, the company has faced approximately 56,000 asbestos-related legal claims, many of which were mesothelioma lawsuits.
The company stopped using asbestos in its welding equipment in 1981, but mesothelioma’s decades-long latency period means welders from the 1970s may just learn they have the cancer. Even more recent welders — from the 1980s, 1990s or 2000s — could still have used old Lincoln Electric welding equipment, unaware that asbestos is present or dangerous to their health.
Legal Help for Welders With Mesothelioma
Welders who have mesothelioma can receive compensation. They have a legitimate legal case against the companies that manufactured asbestos and added it to welding rods and other welding tools.
Many of these companies knew asbestos was dangerous and continued using it for financial gain. Many of the companies who did not know asbestos was dangerous should have — usually due to a lack of research or care. There was a lot of negligence and maliciousness that put American workers at risk of exposure during the 20th century, when welding reached its peak.
Please consider looking for legal help if you are a former or current welder with mesothelioma. You can contact our legal staff for lawyer recommendations or learn the steps to filing a lawsuit. You can also get payment from an asbestos trust fund if the responsible company is no longer in business.
Email Carl Jewett at firstname.lastname@example.org for help with your case.
Sources & Author
- Retention of Asbestos Bodies in the Lungs of Welders. American Journal of Industrial Medicine. Retrieved from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ajim.4700250604. Accessed: 09/17/2020.
- Welding and Lung Cancer in a Pooled Analysis of Case-Control Studies. American Journal of Epidemiology. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3888276/. Accessed: 09/17/2020.
- Cancer Risks among Welders and Occasional Welders in a National Population-Based Cohort Study: Canadian Census Health and Environmental Cohort. Safety and Health at Work. Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2093791116300944. Accessed: 09/17/2020.
- Malignant Mesothelioma and Occupational Exposure to Asbestos: an Analysis of 1445 Cases. British Occupational Hygiene Society. Retrieved from: https://watermark.silverchair.com/46-suppl_1-150.pdf. Accessed: 08/11/2020.
- 2019 Annual Report. Lincoln Electric. Retrieved from: https://ir.lincolnelectric.com/static-files/70f999ff-3718-46f4-bb97-af58e3b27336. Accessed: 09/17/2020.
- Lincoln Electric Co. History. Funding Universe. Retrieved from: http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/lincoln-electric-co-history/. Accessed: 09/17/2020.
Sources & Author