A valve is a device that regulates the flow of substances (gases, fluidized solids, or liquids) by opening, closing, or partially obstructing various passageways. Valves are found in many kinds of equipment, from plumbing and heating systems to a wide variety of machinery including boilers, turbines, and other equipment. Valves are subject to heat and high temperatures so they usually need to be insulated. Decades ago, the insulation of choice for most valves was asbestos.
Many different tradespeople worked with asbestos-wrapped valves, including plumbers, mechanics, HVAC workers, boilermakers, pipe fitters, steamfitters, and others. All of these individuals were potentially exposed to asbestos while on the job and all were susceptible to developing asbestos-related diseases. These diseases do not surface immediately but take many years – even decades – to develop, often striking these individuals in their later years when they should be enjoying retirement.
Not everyone who is exposed to asbestos will develop an asbestos cancer. However, each year, a few thousand people in the United States die of mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer for which the only known cause is asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma is difficult to treat and usually results in death within a year of diagnosis. Though treatments are improving and researchers are working to find new ones each day, the disease remains a sure death sentence at this time.
Even though most uses for asbestos were banned in the late 1970s, valves insulated with asbestos can still be found, especially if equipment is particularly old and has not been well-maintained or updated. Anyone working with equipment that contains valves should always be aware that asbestos may still be present. Precautions, including wearing a respirator, should always be taken.
Today, nearly everyone is aware of the hazards of asbestos. Prior to the 1970s, most tradesmen were not aware that working with asbestos was dangerous. However, many asbestos manufacturers did know that asbestos was hazardous yet continued to dictate its use in valves and other similar equipment. Because of this cover up, many individuals that should have been spared asbestos illnesses developed them instead. The result has been lots of unnecessary suffering for these tradespeople and their families.
During the last decade, courts of law have been finally acknowledging that asbestos product manufacturers may be responsible for the deaths of many individuals who were exposed to the mineral while on the job, and these same courts are bestowing monetary awards upon those who’ve suffered so much.
If you were exposed to asbestos-insulated valves and have developed mesothelioma as a result of that exposure, you may be eligible for compensation as well. For more details, order our free mesothelioma information packet.
Last modified: December 28, 2010.