Asbestos Exposure Risk at Bell & Gossett
Because they are constantly processing water and other liquids that are extremely hot, it stands to reason that HVAC pumps’ components must be built to withstand high temperatures. By 1940, Bell & Gossett had found a solution to this problem: asbestos. The mineral was strong, durable, heat- and fire-resistant, and because it was found in large deposits in nature, it was also inexpensive. Bell & Gossett was not alone. Numerous companies turned to asbestos, not just to help their products withstand heat, but to make building products fire resistant, to help make acoustic panels soundproof, and to make packing materials strong and pliable.
By the 1970s, though, it became apparent that exposure to asbestos could be a health hazard. In most asbestos products, the mineral’s fibers were contained within another substance, which kept the particles from being released into the environment and made the products somewhat safe. But when asbestos products age, they tend to become brittle and crumbly and release asbestos dust into the air. This is when problems arise, because when those particles are inhaled, they can become stuck in a person’s lung tissue and plant the seed for a life-threatening illness like mesothelioma. Manufacturing asbestos products also posed a hazard, as doing so often required handling raw asbestos fibers.
Literally thousands of products were made with asbestos up to the 1970s and 1980s. At Bell & Gossett, pumps contained asbestos-laden gaskets and packing, and the company’s product specifications called for systems’ pipes to be insulated with asbestos insulation. A Bell & Gossett sales catalog from 1940 further specified that products should be installed in asbestos cement.
Bell & Gossett products thought to have contained asbestos include (but are not limited to):
- Bell & Gossett Hydro Flo Systems (insulation, asbestos cement)
- Packing material
Occupations at Risk for Asbestos Exposure
Plumbers, pipefitters and other laborers who worked with Bell & Gossett products made prior to 1985 may have been exposed to hazardous asbestos fibers. People in these occupations are at an especially high risk of contracting mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease because they tended to work in close quarters, like boiler rooms, where asbestos fibers were difficult to escape. Also at risk are factory workers who worked in the presence of asbestos in Bell & Gossett plants, even if they never laid a hand on an asbestos product themselves. Even their family members could have had their health compromised if the worker brought home asbestos dust on their clothing or work gear; like cigarette smoke, even secondhand asbestos can have profound health risks.
Mesothelioma is a rare but aggressive type of cancer that affects up to 3,000 Americans each year. The only known cause of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure, but because it can take up to 50 years to present symptoms in the human body, the disease can be difficult to diagnose. If you think you or someone you know could be at risk, take the time to learn more about the disease and its treatment options today.