Veterans Assistance

Plumbers - Mesothelioma Risks

When a building or home is being constructed, there are many different skilled people who come together to make everything fit. One of these areas of construction is plumbing, and it takes skilled, qualified plumbers to get the job done. Plumbing is a highly respectable trade - without plumbers, we wouldn't have pipes and the modern systems we are privileged with. Unfortunately, plumbers are putting themselves at risk even today, and have been for many years. The risk comes from the asbestos product that was added to piping insulation decades ago. Thousands of homes and buildings still have pipe insulation that contains asbestos—which means a plumber can be easily exposed while performing routine repairs. Asbestos is harmful because exposure to it can lead to the development of the deadly cancer mesothelioma.

Asbestos was a very popular additive for plumbing materials for about 40 years, from 1940 to 1980. It was used to provide better insulation and protection to pipes, to make plumbing systems perform to a higher standard. The risk of exposure for plumbers comes when they are repairing one of these older systems today, or possibly when the plumber was installing and repairing years ago. Asbestos fibers can be released whenever the material is disturbed - a frequent occurrence during plumbing repairs. The asbestos fibers are microscopic and may be unnoticeable, but the damage they do is very harsh. Once in the air, a plumber can easily breathe them in.

When asbestos fibers enter the body, they become trapped in the membrane that lines the chest cavity, lungs, and other vital organs of the body, called the mesothelium. Constant and prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers allows these fibers to build up, which leads to the formation of scar tissue, inflammation, and many other respiratory problems. A person who has asbestos fibers cannot feel them, and will go years without knowing what is happening. They may experience pain and discomfort, but write this off as something unrelated and not even seek treatment.

Mesothelioma can develop because asbestos is a carcinogen, a toxic substance that causes cancer. When trapped in the mesothelium, the asbestos fibers can affect cell growth and structure, leading to the growth of a tumor within the mesothelium tissue and on to the lung. The latency period of mesothelioma, or amount of time it lays dormant, is very long compared to other forms of cancer—it can take years or decades before symptoms become apparent. When a person gets sick, they may not even remember being exposed to asbestos, and won't put the cause and effect together until it's too late. Even a doctor can overlook these symptoms as something unrelated, leaving the mesothelioma untreated and left to develop even further.

If you are currently a plumber, or have been in the past, visit a doctor as soon as possible to see what the next step is for determining the presence of asbestos in your body and your risk for mesothelioma. By meeting with a doctor regularly, you'll be able to have your health tracked and catch a mesothelioma growth sooner rather than later. Early detection is very important for mesothelioma, and all forms of cancer, because it means less treatment time and a better prognosis and life expectancy. Mesothelioma could have been prevented if the asbestos companies thought with their heads instead of their wallets. You can still take control of your health and fight it while you still can.


Workers at Risk for Asbestos Exposure

Below are a list of occupations and trades that were at risk for asbestos exposure:

Last Edited: Sun July 26, 2020