There are hundreds of thousands of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) workers in the US. HVAC workers are employed in many types of residential properties and commercial buildings, such as factories, offices, schools, and hospitals.
HVAC specialists often work in cramped locations where asbestos was once used. Asbestos-containing materials were once common in the HVAC industry in hundreds of products, and these workers often came into contact with them.
These products included HVAC heating ducts, ceiling, and floor tiles, and insulation. Because of their cramping working conditions, it was easy for asbestos to become disturbed and for the workers to inhale it. This caused them to be more susceptible to many health problems, including mesothelioma. (Mesothelioma.com)
HVAC Workers Fast Facts (BLS.gov)
- National Employment: 367,900
- Similar Occupations: Boilermakers, electricians, general maintenance and repair workers, plumbers and pipefitters
- Previously Exposed: Yes
- Still Being Exposed: Yes
- Asbestos-Related Disease Risk: High
HVAC Specialist Asbestos Exposure
HVAC employees perform many types of tasks that keep homes and buildings warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Their duties include installing new ducts and climate control systems, inspections, regular maintenance, and replacement of old parts. During installation, other laborers may help them to put together the HVAC system. They also could be at higher risk of asbestos exposure, including plumbers, electricians, and sheet metal workers.
Depending on how old the building is, the HVAC contractor could come into contact with materials from the building’s construction that contain asbestos. This might include furnace insulation, gaskets, cooling towers, air duct systems, and tank insulations and casings. The risk is higher when original ductwork with asbestos insulation is damaged. This could release asbestos fibers into the air and pose a health risk to anyone in the area.
Boilermakers also worked often with HVAC workers and were exposed to asbestos as they assembled and built large boilers. Because of their size, workers may have worked in high areas and even inside the boiler. Boilers can last as long as 50 years, and they were often ordered to perform maintenance and inspection of the systems to prevent early failure. The older the boiler, the more likely it was to contain asbestos.
Scientific Studies on HVAC Specialist Asbestos Exposure
A recent study found that 1.3 million people who were employed in the construction, building, and maintenance industries are still exposed to asbestos every year. For an HVAC worker who has been exposed to asbestos on the job, their risk over their lives of getting mesothelioma is 10%. While the exposure rate has been dropping over the years because less asbestos is used, workers still risk health issues from work performed years ago.
HVAC Specialist Asbestos and Mesothelioma Lawsuits
A former HVAC worker, James Morrison, won $325,000 in a verdict against Copeland Refrigerator Company. He was exposed to the deadly toxin in refrigeration compressors when he worked as an HVAC mechanic from the firm from the 1970s until the 1980s. He said he developed mesothelioma a few years after he stopped working. The jury found the company was 12.4% responsible for the worker’s mesothelioma.
A family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Sprinkmann Insulation in Wisconsin after their loved one, an HVAC contractor, died from mesothelioma. The jury awarded the family $1.5 million. (Asbestos.com)
Some of the companies that made asbestos products used in HVAC work were W.R. Grace Corporation, Johns Manville, J-M Manufacturing Co., Rich Tex Inc., and Georgia-Pacific.
Some of the companies that have been sued in asbestos litigation in recent years are Dewey & Almy Chemical Company, Gold Bond, Kaiser Gypsum Company Inc., and Sprinkmann Insulation/Sprinkmann Sons Corp.