In recent times, more light has been shed on how some hospitals put hospital workers at risk of asbestos exposure. Below is more information about this growing problem.
Hospital Workers Fast Facts (BLS.gov
- National Employment, 2018: 3 million
- Similar Occupations: Doctors, nurses, physicians’ assistants, clinical laboratory technologists, and technicians, audiologists, chiropractors
- Previously Exposed: Yes
- Still Being Exposed: Yes
- Asbestos-Related Disease Risk: Low
In Great Britain, there was a British anesthesiologist who was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2007. (S.Telegraph.co.uk). At first, he could not understand how he had been exposed to asbestos, which can cause mesothelioma. He later found out that his asbestos exposure came at a hospital where he was a medical student.
According to the Telegraph newspaper in the UK, there may have been high levels of asbestos in some of the tunnels at Guy’s Hospital in London where he trained for six years. Many hospital workers used the tunnels every day, so he wonders how many other workers will eventually come down with mesothelioma.
The anesthesiologist remembers walking through those dangerous tunnels two or three times a day for years at the hospital. He said three other physicians he trained with also developed mesothelioma. He was the last of four to die from cancer, passing away at only 55.
Hospital Workers Asbestos Exposure
Asbestos is often found in many old buildings, some of which are hospitals that were built from the 1940s until the early 1970s. In 2006, officials in New York City did a survey of city hospitals and found there were potential asbestos exposure problems at 10 out of 15 of them.
Hospitals and healthcare maintenance workers can be exposed to asbestos in many ways in hospitals. Healthcare professionals can be exposed to asbestos in tiles, pipes, floors, walls and other places where they work every day. Major asbestos exposure can occur when insulation in a building is taken out during a renovation, which can expose hospital workers to asbestos.
Some of the most common sources of asbestos in hospitals include:
- Pipe insulation
- Building materials, such as siding, wallboard, spackling, floor tile, and ceiling tile
- HVAC duct insulation
- Boiler insulation
- Cooling towers
- Electrical wiring insulation
Pipe insulation in hospitals is very common and is often found in insulating pipes and boilers. It is very friable, meaning it can be made into powder with just hand pressure. This makes it easy for asbestos to be released into the air when it is disturbed. There are other hospital building materials that may contain asbestos and can endanger hospital workers especially during renovations. Some of these include: (Hercenter.org)
- Transite siding
- Asbestos cement
- Vinyl asbestos flooring tiles
- Roofing materials
- Popcorn ceiling textures
Workers may unknowingly expose and disturb these materials during renovations and expose themselves and hospital workers to asbestos. In such situations, it is important for people in the area to wear personal protective equipment that prevents asbestos exposure.
VA Hospital Fails To Protect Workers From Asbestos Exposure
In 2015, a whistleblower at Audie Murphy VA Hospital said there were high levels of asbestos exposure among hospital and maintenance workers at the medical facility. The maintenance worker said that he and other workers were required to work in areas that were contaminated with asbestos without wearing protective equipment. Some of the materials that allegedly contained asbestos were roof shingles, cement, floor tiles, and plumbing. (Asbestosnetwork.com)
According to the report, hospital workers and maintenance workers in medical facilities are at higher risk of developing an asbestos-related disease because of being exposed to the job. Many of these buildings were built decades ago with materials that contain asbestos and continue to pose hazards to workers today.