Sheet Metal Fabricators Run High Risk for Asbestos Diseases Despite Limits on Asbestos Exposure

Even Limited Asbestos Exposure Can Lead to Asbestos Disease - No Safe Level of Exposure

January 5, 2010 — The work of sheet metal fabricators is prevalent in every building, dairy and home with central air or heat. They are a central part of the construction industry. In a recently updated study, it has come to light that these invaluable workers may have a higher exposure to asbestos, and a higher risk of asbestos disease, from the work they do.

Traditionally, HVAC ducting was insulated to increase efficiency—before 1970, it was common for insulation to contain asbestos due to its insulating and fire resistant properties, and it was not uncommon to disturb asbestos–containing fireproofing when doing installations or making repairs. Often the duct connectors also contained asbestos. Fabricators that built gutters may have been exposed to asbestos–backed roofing tiles or vinyl siding lined with asbestos. Sheet metal workers in the past were also exposed to other trades either using or disturbing asbestos–containing materials around them. Unfortunately, even today the sheet metal workers that work to maintain existing structures, especially if built before 1970, have no way of knowing if insulation, duct connectors, roofing materials or siding insulation contains asbestos without proper testing.

With a growing rate of asbestosis and mesothelioma within the sheet metal fabrication industry, OSHA reduced the allowable limits of airborne asbestos on the job inline with the Clean Air Act of 1970. Despite the reduced exposure, sheet metal tradesmen are still developing asbestos diseases, with studies indicating that even with lower exposures to asbestos there is still a high risk for developing disease.

About Sheet Metal Workers and Asbestos Diseases

For further information about asbestos diseases and the sheet metal fabrication industry, please see the following:

  • Sheet metal workers still at risk despite stricter OSHA standards and lower asbestos exposure levels
  • Occupational Asbestos Hazards
  • Asbestos Related Diseases