HVAC Workers and Asbestos Exposure

Heating, vent, and air conditioning (HVAC) workers are those who maintain, diagnose, repair, replace, clean, and install air conditioning, heating, and ventilation units. Consequently, HVAC workers are at risk for asbestos exposure because their duties require them to be in contact with duct insulation and other parts of buildings and houses not normally accessible. In older buildings in particular, duct insulation and other forms of insulation may contain asbestos that is disturbed during maintenance.

Gunning Mixtures and Asbestos

In the past, HVAC workers used gunning mixtures that contained asbestos because they were resistant to heat and corrosion, and were consequently ideal for the industry’s needs. These gunning mixtures were used to repair holes and to line HVAC systems. Today, in the U.S., HVAC workers no longer use gunning mixtures that contain asbestos, but the repairs and lining of years past are still likely to contain asbestos and the older gunning mixture may have deteriorated to the point at which disturbing it releases asbestos dust into the atmosphere.

Repairs Can Play a Role in Asbestos Exposure

Left alone, a gunning mixture containing asbestos or asbestos insulation may not do harm, but HVAC workers and technicians who are in the process of affecting repairs can disturb old asbestos building materials that are deteriorating with age or were incorrectly installed. Asbestos exposure then occurs as fibers and dust are scattered through the air. Unsuspecting HVAC workers may not have safety procedures in place because they were unaware that there was a risk of asbestos exposure. Additionally, there may be asbestos present in any building built as recently as 1980 and HVAC installation and repairs can lead to inadvertent asbestos exposure.

Other Means of Asbestos Exposure in HVAC Workers

In addition to the hazard of asbestos exposure during HVAC installation and repairs, HVAC workers in the past were exposed when wearing asbestos gloves and other protective equipment made of asbestos while working on HVAC systems. Some HVAC workers were also exposed to asbestos when using lathes and milling machines in machining factories that manufactured metal parts for HVAC systems.

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