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Welders & Mesothelioma

Welders are highly trained tradesmen. Their skills play an important role in many industries like shipbuilding, auto manufacturing/repair, and construction. Because welders know how to permanently bond metal parts using heat, they often work on projects of all shapes and sizes. Welders understand that their work can be dangerous, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics agrees. In fact, 1 report states that (as a group) welders have a higher rate of injury and illness than the national average. One major hazard welders face is possible exposure to asbestos. Today, fortunately, the dangers of asbestos are widely known and important safety regulations are in place to protect workers from this cancer-causing substance, but this wasn’t always the case. In fact, for individuals working as welders before 1980, the risk of asbestos exposure was potentially a daily threat—a danger they were likely never warned about. Unfortunately, this often-repeated exposure may have put innocent, hard-working welders at risk of developing mesothelioma.

Where Were Welders Exposed to Asbestos?

Because welders work in so many different types of environments, tracking down where and how they may have been exposed to asbestos varies with each person’s work history. That said reports of asbestos-related diseases are more common in welders who worked in the following fields:

How Were Welders Exposed to Asbestos?

Because asbestos is an incredibly resilient, strong, and heat-resistant mineral, dozens of companies chose to use it as an ingredient in the manufacturing of thousands of products produced before 1980. The problem is that when asbestos-containing products are damaged, or wear down due to age, they can release tiny, dangerous fibers into the air. These fibers can be inhaled or carried home on a worker’s skin or clothing in the form of dust. Wherever exposure takes place, asbestos fibers can get stuck inside a person’s body and eventually lead to the development of mesothelioma.

Before safety rules became law, thousands of welders were potentially exposed to asbestos just by doing their jobs. How? Not only did welders often work in environments where they might be surrounded by asbestos-containing building materials like insulation and concrete, but the material used in the protective gear they wore on their bodies to shield themselves from intense heat often contained asbestos as well. Even their tools may have contained asbestos. For example, some welding rods were made with asbestos-containing materials and then coated with asbestos as a final layer of heat protection.

Mesothelioma Can Take Decades to Develop

It takes only 1 inhaled asbestos fiber to cause mesothelioma, and with so many potential sources of repeated workplace exposure, it’s understandable why welders are such a high-risk group.

Mesothelioma often takes a long time to develop—as long as 20-50 years. That means welders who were exposed decades ago may just now be receiving a diagnosis. Today, there is still potential for on-the-job asbestos exposure, but the threat is much lower due to public awareness and much-needed safety regulations.