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Asbestos Exposure, Lung Cancer & Mesothelioma in Boilermakers

Throughout the last century, boilers have been used extensively in homes, commercial buildings, and aboard ships to use the power of steam to provide heat and energy. Boiler workers and boilermakers have an important job making, installing, maintaining, and repairing these essential systems.

Unfortunately, from the 1920s through the 1980s, boilermakers were also at very high risk of asbestos exposure. Indeed, for a time, nearly every aspect of working with boilers exposed the worker to dangerous asbestos fibers. Anyone who worked in the industry during that time, even briefly, is at risk of developing lung cancer or mesothelioma decades later.

Mesothelioma and lung cancer are common in boilermakers

It’s important for retired boilermakers and their families to understand those risks and the legal options they may have for compensation. If you’ve been diagnosed with lung cancer or mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos, the experienced attorneys at the Ferrell Law Group are here to help.

How asbestos was used in the boilermaker profession

Until the 1980s, pipefitters, high-pressure welders, and other boiler workers were at extreme risk because asbestos was used so extensively in their workplaces. Boilers, by definition, produce a great deal of heat, and asbestos was broadly used for its insulation properties. Asbestos lining was used in:

  • Pipe wraps on steam delivery systems.
  • Pipe connection adhesives.
  • Boiler tank interior liners and outer wraps.
  • Gaskets, bearings, and rollers.
  • Base pads and supports.
  • Floor, ceiling, and wall protection for boiler rooms.
  • Refractory materials.

Asbestos was even used in boilermakers’ tools and clothing. Ironically, it was intended to protect them but ended up creating an even greater safety hazard.

While asbestos is not always dangerous if it is well-protected and undisturbed, this was generally not the case in new boiler installation, old boiler rooms and on assembly lines. Whenever asbestos is disturbed, dangerous fibers are released into the air and can be inhaled by workers. A boilermaker’s work regularly involved disturbing asbestos during manufacturing, installation, maintenance, repairs, and removal.

Types of boiler workers who were at risk of asbestos exposure

Boiler producers (manufacturing workers) were constantly exposed to asbestos products throughout the assembly area. Asbestos was used in nearly every component, and as those asbestos products were disturbed, fibers were released into the air inside the factory. No matter their role, each worker was tasked with handling asbestos material and exposed to the airborne fibers.

Insulators, pipefitters, and other workers involved in boiler installation and maintenance were likewise at high risk of asbestos exposure. So were boiler operators in buildings and on trains, often working in enclosed spaces where asbestos fibers were everywhere.

Perhaps the highest exposure risk was among boilermakers and boiler tenders on board ships, whether military or civilian. The boiler rooms and engine rooms on old ships were cramped and poorly ventilated, and boiler workers spent their entire days in those rooms. That meant they were exposed constantly, with every breath they took.

Family members of boilermakers and boiler workers may have also been exposed to asbestos fibers via the worker’s clothing and hair. Again, there is no safe level of asbestos exposure; even brief exposure can be enough to cause cancer decades later.

How asbestos exposure causes lung cancer and mesothelioma

Once asbestos fibers are inhaled, they become stuck in the protective lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart. Over time, the fibers cause inflammation and scarring within the lining. This is a slow process, but over the course of many years, that scarring and inflammation can lead to the formation of cancerous tumors in the scar tissue.

Asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma, a type of malignant cancer that affects the lining of the lungs (pleural mesothelioma), the abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma), or sometimes the heart (pericardial mesothelioma). However, mesothelioma is not the only type of cancer that can be caused by asbestos exposure. Asbestos is also linked to all types of lung cancer, including both small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

Boilermakers who were exposed to asbestos and developed lung cancer may have an asbestos claim or lawsuit even if they had other risk factors, such as smoking. In fact, asbestos and smoking have a synergistic effect: smoking reduces the lungs’ ability to heal and clean themselves, increasing the damage done by asbestos fibers and causing the lungs to develop even more scar tissue.

Legal options for boilermakers exposed to asbestos

Boilermakers and other workers exposed to asbestos can pursue compensation from the manufacturer of the asbestos product(s) they were exposed to. There are two primary options for workers, depending on the manufacturer:

  • An asbestos lawsuit can be filed against a manufacturer that is still solvent (that is, still in business). This is a type of civil lawsuit seeking damages (financial compensation) from the manufacturer.
  • Many asbestos companies have long since filed for bankruptcy, which means they cannot be sued. However, asbestos trust funds were set up during those bankruptcy proceedings to protect asbestos victims who come forward over time. Billions of dollars are still available in those trust funds to compensate boilermakers and other workers diagnosed with lung cancer or mesothelioma.

Remember, in the vast majority of cases, these are claims filed against the asbestos manufacturer, not your own employer.

How an attorney can help boilermakers and their families with lung cancer claims

Because of the long incubation period between asbestos exposure and a diagnosis of lung cancer or mesothelioma, pursuing compensation is a challenging process. It’s necessary to find out who manufactured the asbestos products used in your workplace decades ago and determine what legal options are available based on the time, location, and type of exposure. These are complex cases that require the attention of an experienced asbestos attorney.

The attorneys at the Ferrell Law Group have extensive experience and a strong track record of results on behalf of boilermakers and other workers throughout the United States. We know how to investigate asbestos claims, get to the bottom of what happened, and identify all your legal options. Our attorneys will listen to your story, explain your options, and aggressively pursue the full compensation you and your family deserve.

If you were exposed to asbestos as a boiler worker and have been diagnosed with cancer, you have rights. Our law firm will protect them. Give us a call or contact us online today for a free, confidential consultation. There’s no obligation and no pressure, just answers about your rights and options.

Click here to download a printable PDF version of this article, "Asbestos Exposure, Lung Cancer & Mesothelioma in Boilermakers."

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