Myriad building products and equipment once contained asbestos, as well as products used in a variety of other industries, including shipbuilding, refineries, power plants, steel mills and more. Widespread use of asbestos was especially evident in products that were exposed to high temperatures because the mineral is so heat resistant and by insulating this equipment with asbestos, fires and other disasters could be avoided.
Pumps were often packed with asbestos materials for insulation purposes and because pumps are used for a variety of applications, they were found in a lot of different places, including in commercial buildings and onboard ships. Often, the valves and gaskets in pumps also contained asbestos.
The tradesmen who maintained or installed pumps, including many shipbuilders, were especially susceptible to breathing in asbestos dust. Pumps were often located in tight spaces and anytime asbestos was released during installation or repair, it was easy to inhale the dust. Those who overhauled ships, especially during the World War II years, were also readily exposed. The result, some 20-50 years later, is a large number of Navy vets, civilian employees, construction workers, pipe fitters, and others who have developed mesothelioma or already died of the disease.
Mesothelioma is a serious cancer for which the only known cause is exposure to asbestos. This form of cancer is usually not diagnosed until it reaches its later stages and, by that time, it’s usually too late to offer effective treatment to the patient. The result is often a quick death, usually within a year after diagnosis. Though doctors and scientists are working hard to find new treatments and ultimately a cure for mesothelioma, it remains one of the most aggressive forms of the disease.
Though not everyone who is exposed to asbestos fibers develops mesothelioma, each year more individuals die of the disease. And though asbestos in most forms was banned in the late 1970s, individuals working on old pumps, valves, and gaskets can still encounter the hazardous mineral. Care should always be taken to wear protective clothing when working on old pumps.
To add insult to injury, many manufacturers of asbestos products knew of the dangers of the mineral but allowed it to be used anyway. Details about this cover-up have slowly emerged over the years and asbestos manufacturers are now being held responsible for their actions.
If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma due to exposure to asbestos-containing pumps, you’ll want to be sure to take some time to examine your legal rights for compensation. Consultation with an experienced asbestos attorney can help. For more information, order our free mesothelioma resource kit.
Last modified: December 28, 2010.