For decades, asbestos was used for everything related to constructing and maintaining a building. Anyone who worked in a corresponding occupation was likely exposed to this toxic substance — and could develop mesothelioma.

That group includes plumbers and pipefitters, two of the most common trades in the United States.

Asbestos was considered a “magic mineral” for much of the 20th century. Advertisements boasted about its benefits. The general public assumed it was safe. So did the workers who were exposed regularly to it.

As we soon learned, though, asbestos is also the only known cause of mesothelioma. Its continued use in the United States — despite many asbestos manufacturers knowing it was hazardous — has led to many plumbers and pipefitters being diagnosed with this rare and aggressive disease.

If you are or ever were a plumber or pipefitter and have developed mesothelioma, we at Mesothelioma Guide can provide assistance. You were very likely exposed to asbestos, and this exposure led to your cancer. There are numerous options available to help you find and pay for high-quality treatment from an experienced mesothelioma specialist.

To learn more about how we can help, email our patient advocate and registered nurse, Jenna Campagna, at jenna@mesotheliomaguide.com.

 

How Plumbers and Pipefitters Were Exposed to Asbestos

Asbestos is in homes, offices, entertainment venues and more. It’s in walls, floors, ceilings and even some basic appliances like toasters and ovens. There’s a long list of components that include asbestos — and a long list of trades affected by asbestos exposure.

Plumbers and pipefitters are near the top — two occupations with high rates of exposure and strong connections with mesothelioma.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were around 500,000 plumbers and pipefitters in the country during 2018. In 1980, when the commercial and industrial use of asbestos was still at its peak, there were around 400,000. That’s 400,000 Americans who may have been exposed to asbestos regularly.

 

Why Was Asbestos Used in Plumbing and Pipefitting?

As previously stated, asbestos was used just about everywhere in buildings. Why? The answer is simple: It could protect them from damage.

Asbestos has many appealing qualities. It’s cheap, for starters, but it’s also resistant to fire, heat and water. Therefore, it could shield nearly all building components from these potentially harmful elements. The substance was used in or around:

  • Floor and ceiling tiles
  • Insulation
  • Electric wiring and sockets
  • Pipe cement
  • Shingles
  • Siding
  • Drywall
  • Joint compound
  • Ordinary household appliances (toasters, ovens, mitts and more)

All of these building components could play a role in a plumber or pipefitter’s exposure to asbestos.

 

When Plumbers and Pipefitters Came Into Contact With Asbestos

Plumbers install and repair pipes, which includes removing clogs from pipes, fixing water heaters, and installing and fixing toilets. Pipefitters handle pipes designed to collaborate with high-pressure materials, such as chemicals, acids or steam.

To reach these pipes, plumbers and pipefitters often touched or removed building components that include asbestos:

  • Any time you tore open a wall or floor to assess a problem, you may have accidentally sent asbestos fibers into the air.
  • If you had to maneuver through electrical wiring, you may have disturbed asbestos.
  • If you worked near or had to touch insulation, then you likely were exposed to asbestos.

The substance was also used on and around pipes, both on the exterior of pipes and on the insulation surrounding pipes. In addition to being fire-resistant, asbestos could protect pipes from electrical charges and currents. This means:

  • When installing pipes, you may have handled asbestos compounds or mixtures
  • If you repaired pipes, you could have disturbed the asbestos used in the initial installation or a previous repair job

If you touched building parts that included asbestos, pressed against them, or in any way disturbed them, then you may have released asbestos dust into the air around you. When these fibers break from the source, they become airborne and are prone to enter your body.

 

Impact of Mesothelioma on Plumbers and Pipefitters

Numerous studies have either focused on plumbers developing mesothelioma or included the profession.

One study examined asbestos-related diseases in 153 plumbers and pipefitters who worked in building construction. The researchers found that the most common revelation was thickening on either side of the pleural space. This effect, which is common for pleural mesothelioma, accounted for 18% of the plumbers and pipefitters in the study.

Pleural mesothelioma forms in the pleura, which is a thin membrane between the lung cavity and chest wall. The pleura consists of two sides, or tissue walls made up of cells. When pleural mesothelioma forms, a common side effect is thickening along one or both of the pleural cavity walls.

This study is not the only scientific research connecting plumbing and pipefitting to mesothelioma:

  • Another study, conducted in Italy, showed how a woman married to a plumber developed mesothelioma through secondhand asbestos exposure.
  • A different study that showed a woman had mesothelioma after being married to a shipyard plumber.
  • A British study revealed that the asbestos exposure risk for plumbers and pipefitters was equal to that of electrical workers.

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Devin Goldan image

About the Writer, Devin Golden

Devin Golden is the content writer for Mesothelioma Guide. He produces mesothelioma-related content on various mediums, including the Mesothelioma Guide website and social media channels. Devin's objective is to translate complex information regarding mesothelioma into informative, easily absorbable content to help patients and their loved ones.

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Devin Golden

About the Writer, Devin Golden

Devin Golden is the content writer for Mesothelioma Guide. He produces mesothelioma-related content on various mediums, including the Mesothelioma Guide website and social media channels. Devin's objective is to translate complex information regarding mesothelioma into informative, easily absorbable content to help patients and their loved ones.