For roughly 30 years, between the early 1950s and 1980, forced-air heating ducts installed in American buildings and houses were often constructed, secured, or wrapped with asbestos-containing materials.
A once widely popular mineral, asbestos was used abundantly in different construction materials and found its way into thousands of commercial applications. Of course, asbestos is now well understood to be the only known cause of the cancer mesothelioma and other deadly asbestos-related diseases.
Before it came under heavy regulation in the 1980s, asbestos could be found in many products commonly used in the HVAC and heating-duct industries.
Heating Duct Asbestos Exposure
Prized for its ability to prevent fires and withstand high temperatures, asbestos was commonly used as a component in lagging cloth, insulation, and pipe wrap — products often used by those in the HVAC industry.
Before 1980, it was common to use asbestos-containing pipe wrap or lagging cloth to secure and reinforce any leaks or weaknesses found in sheet-metal air ducts. Such materials worked by keeping any potential outflows of air sealed inside the air ducts.
Other HVAC and heating duct products that could contain asbestos include:
- Asbestos paper
- Duct dampers
- Duct wrap
Such products can pose serious health risks as they deteriorate and break down over time. When such materials begin to break down, individual asbestos fibers can become loose and be inadvertently inhaled or ingested by anyone nearby.
Those who are unsure if the heating ducts in their building or home contain asbestos should seek immediate assistance from a qualified asbestos abatement professional who can best determine if asbestos is present and whether it poses a health risk.
Who Is at Risk for Heating Duct Asbestos Exposure?
While homeowners and DIY renovators certainly run the risk of exposure as asbestos-containing products on or inside of their heating ducts deteriorate and/or break down, former or current HVAC workers are often considered at the highest risk for developing mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases from heating-duct asbestos exposure.
Certain high-risk occupations come with an elevated risk of asbestos exposure. When it comes to asbestos exposure through HVAC systems and heating ducts, workers at high risk include:
- Construction workers
- Duct workers
- HVAC technicians
- Insulation factory workers
- Steel workers
All workers who installed, repaired, or replaced heating ducts may have been exposed to asbestos fibers. In addition to the HVAC workers who came into regular contact with asbestos, their families were also put at heightened risk, as asbestos fibers can easily stick to clothing and other materials, and be accidentally brought home with workers.
Fortunately, the risk of asbestos exposure is lower for individuals and families whose homes were built after the year 1980, as this was around the time when asbestos started to get phased out of building and construction materials.
While products like pipe wrap, lagging paper, and duct dampers made today no longer contain asbestos, any person who worked with HVAC systems built before the 1980s is at an increased risk of developing mesothelioma or another asbestos-related illness.
Mesothelioma and Other Asbestos-Related Diseases
Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma, an especially lethal form of cancer that comes with an average life expectancy of only 4-18 months after diagnosis.
A rare disease, around 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year. The vast majority of those who develop asbestos-related diseases have a work history that included regular asbestos exposure.
Exposure to asbestos can also lead to other illnesses, including:
- Asbestosis: Often characterized by shortness of breath and persistent coughing, asbestosis is a non-cancerous disease that results in intense scarring and damage to the lungs.
- Asbestos-related lung cancer: Once asbestos fibers are trapped inside of a person’s lungs, it can lead to long-term inflammation that can spur on the development of asbestos lung cancer.
Links between asbestos exposure and other types of asbestos cancer have also been found, including gastrointestinal cancer, esophageal cancer, colon cancer, rectal cancer, and stomach cancer.
According to data from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), it’s estimated that around 40,000 Americans die from asbestos-related illnesses each year.
Do You Have Mesothelioma? Know Your Options
Though companies were well aware of the cancer risks associated with asbestos exposure, they continued to incorporate the deadly mineral into their products and expose their workers and the general public to it anyway. The cold and reckless actions of these companies have needlessly killed hundreds of thousands American lives over the last few decades.
A trusted national law firm with offices across the country, Sokolove Law has helped thousands of individuals and families seek justice for wrongful exposure to asbestos. Over the span of its 40-year history, Sokolove Law has recovered more than $4.7 Billion for families impacted by mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.
To learn more and find out if you may be eligible for compensation, contact Sokolove Law today for a free, no-obligation legal consultation.