Mechanics worked to keep many forms of aircraft in top condition. However, they unknowingly put themselves at risk in the process. Key aircraft parts contained the cancer-causing material asbestos. Though asbestos was phased out of aircraft parts in the 1980s, thousands of mechanics were already put in danger.
Asbestos Risks for Aircraft Mechanics
Aircraft mechanics are highly skilled workers vital to the aviation industry. Mechanics are trained to maintain and repair a wide variety of aircraft, including helicopters, airplanes, and jets.
Much like auto mechanics, those who worked on aircraft went above and beyond to keep machinery and parts in the best shape possible. In the process, they may have been exposed to asbestos. This strong, naturally occurring mineral is now known to cause cancer in humans.
Asbestos naturally resists temperature changes, fire, electricity, and sound. This made it useful for different aircraft parts. However, asbestos can also crumble and release fibers into the air.
Exposure to these fibers may cause humans to suffer from diseases like lung cancer or mesothelioma. It takes decades for these diseases to develop. As a result, many mechanics are just now being diagnosed even though they were exposed years ago.
Unfortunately, asbestos-caused diseases have no cure.
Asbestos-related diseases can be scary, confusing, and costly for aircraft mechanics and their loved ones. Fortunately, by working with an asbestos law firm like Sokolove Law, compensation to pay for treatments and other expenses may be within reach.
A History of Aircraft Mechanics and Asbestos Exposure
Aircraft mechanics fix and maintain various aircraft parts, including the engines, electrical components, and body. They also must look out for mechanical or electrical issues that could cause problems for pilots and crew.
In the 20th century, these jobs often put aircraft mechanics into contact with asbestos. Due to the high amount of asbestos-containing parts in aircraft at the time, mechanics were exposed nearly every day to the dangerous mineral.
Asbestos was favored for its fireproof and sound-reducing qualities, both of which were vital for air combat. Asbestos was also very lightweight and a natural insulator due to its fibrous makeup.
Asbestos continued to be used both by the government and the private sector up through the 1980s. Eventually, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued widespread limits on asbestos due to its dangerous properties. However, thousands of mechanics had already been exposed.
Though asbestos was denounced by the government in the 1980s, it had already been under scrutiny for some time. In fact, many companies that manufactured asbestos-containing products knew that their goods could cause serious health issues. These companies ignored the potential health risks so they could make more money.
What Aircraft Parts Contained Asbestos?
While asbestos was used in many different aircraft parts, it was most often used in brake linings, pads, and shoes. Brakes were subject to high heat and friction, and asbestos helped prevent them from wearing out.
Asbestos particles — loosened by friction — would accumulate in aircraft brake housings. When the housings were opened, the particles would enter into the air. Research studies indicate mechanics who repaired brakes in aircraft faced a higher level of asbestos exposure.
Other aircraft parts that commonly used asbestos include:
- Electric systems
- Gaskets, control valves, and grommets for engines
- Glue, adhesives, and other sealants
- Insulation for engine and exhaust systems
- Heat shields, heat blankets, and heating systems
- Hydraulic service lines
When these asbestos-based parts would deteriorate, they released small amounts of asbestos fibers. Aircraft mechanics were exposed to high amounts of asbestos as they removed these parts. Mechanics could also leave the worksite covered in asbestos dust.
Though asbestos was phased out of U.S. airplane parts in the 1980s, some imported parts still contain asbestos. Museum-bound planes or still-flying aircraft built during the asbestos boom may also have asbestos-containing materials still intact. Those who work on these aircraft may be put risk.
Who Else Is at Risk?
Aircraft mechanics were not the only ones put in danger from asbestos. Thousands of people who worked, designed, and maintained aircraft and their parts ran a risk of exposure.
Other people at risk from asbestos exposure due to aircraft parts include:
- Aerospace Engineers: These engineers were tasked with creating, designing, and maintaining aircraft. Engineers who worked directly on site could have been exposed to asbestos fibers or dust.
- Factory Workers: Those who worked on assembly lines or factories where aircraft parts were made were regularly exposed to asbestos-containing materials. None of them realized that asbestos could be deadly.
- Family Members: Family members of aircraft mechanics were at risk of secondhand asbestos exposure. Asbestos fibers and dust could stick to the clothes, hair, and skin of aircraft mechanics. These fibers could become airborne when workers returned home.
Help for Aircraft Mechanics and Their Families
As a result of the EPA bans and restrictions, asbestos is not used as widely in aircraft parts today. There are better workplace safety guidelines in place to protect mechanics from asbestos exposure.
That said, trace amounts of asbestos can still be found in certain aircraft parts. This means aircraft mechanics today could still be at risk. In addition, those exposed before the EPA regulations could still be in danger.
It takes 20-50 years for symptoms of asbestos-related diseases to develop and present symptoms. As a result, a grim diagnosis could be around the corner.
Those diagnosed are left with limited options because there are no cures for asbestos-caused illnesses like mesothelioma. Treatments for these illnesses may help extend the life of those affected. However, they can also be costly or even out of reach for many families.
Luckily, all hope is not lost for aircraft mechanics and their loved ones.
Compensation may be available through a mesothelioma lawsuit against the makers of asbestos-containing products. This compensation can help pay for medical expenses and protect your family’s future.
A mesothelioma law firm like Sokolove Law can help you understand your legal options. With over 40 years of experience in the industry, you can trust our commitment to finding justice for mesothelioma patients.
Contact us today for a free legal case review to see if you may be eligible for compensation.