Household appliance installers perform a number of services. The most obvious of these involves installing stoves, washing machines and dryers, hot water heaters and similar appliances. In addition, household appliance installers examine appliances, make repairs, advise customers on how to use and maintain their appliances and troubleshoot appliances to ensure that they are working properly to ensure the safety of the homeowners.
Asbestos in Households and How Household Appliance Installers May Have Come in Contact
Household appliance installers who were in their careers prior to the realizations about the health risks associated with asbestos may have come in contact with the substance in a number of ways. Here are the two most likely:
Materials used within the home and appliances. For example, hot water heaters and stoves may have been made with some asbestos used to keep the heat from spreading and affecting nearby items.
Materials used in the construction of the home. Insulation in the home's foundation, some types of drywall and insulation around gas lines and water pipes that may have needed to be connected to the appliance being installed often contained asbestos. Even today, older houses may contain asbestos floor tiles or asbestos insulation.
Household appliance installers may have come in contact with the substance during the process of removing old appliances, renovating space and during the installation process itself.
It is generally understood that some occupations are riskier than other ones. Even so, people in today's society expect worker safety to be an important priority of companies, enforced by government agencies. When it came to asbestos exposure, however, this was not always the case, and a surprisingly short time ago people were subjected to conditions that jeopardized their health.
Asbestos and Its Health Effects
What we call asbestos is actually a group of minerals that is broken into two classifications. The most frequently utilized was chrysotile (sometimes called "white" asbestos), or serpentine asbestos. It is a fairly soft form that is generally not associated with asbestos cancer or mesothelioma. Abrasions on the inner surfaces of the lungs may result if serpentine particles are breathed in, however. Asbestosis may then be the result when abrasions build up in the pulmonary system.
Amphibole asbestos is the second category and is considered deadlier. A relatively rare, and generally fatal, disease caused by asbestos called mesothelioma is caused by inhaling asbestos, especially the amphibole varieties. The pleural form of the disease, one which attacks the lining between the lungs and the pleural cavity, is the most prevalent. Being exposed to amphibole asbestos is also a causal factor in the development of pericardial or peritoneal mesotheliomas, diseases that damage the lining around the heart and digestive tract, respectively.
Why Asbestos Was Used
Given what we know today, it is ironic that asbestos was utilized when constructing buildings and in manufacturing numerous items because of its ability to save lives. Serpentine asbestos is one of the most effective insulators known when it comes to combustion and temperature extremes and has been used for the purpose for centuries. Amphibole forms of asbestos also had other traits that made them useful for industrial situations. For instance, amosite has a high iron content, making it impervious to chemical corrosion. "Blue" asbestos, or crocidolite, was frequently found on electrical equipment since it is highly resistant to electrical current. By combining multiple types of fibers, many different ACMs (asbestos-containing materials) could be formed that safeguarded lives and property against combustion, extreme temperatures, electrical contact and caustic chemicals.
As long as it remained solid, asbestos posed almost no hazard. A drawback of ACMS, however, is that as they age they become friable (i.e., easily reduced to powder by hand pressure alone). Friable asbestos is hazardous because in this form the particles can be easily released in the environment; swallowing asbestos fibers may cause disorders such as cancer. Asbestos fibers that coated employees' skin, hair, or clothing could also place others at risk unless strict safety measures, like using on-site uniforms and showers, were followed.
Asbestos Exposure - a Hidden Danger
In contrast to most workplace injuries, which are readily observed and known about immediately following the incident, asbestos-related illnesses can take many, many years to manifest. Given such a lag time between exposure and the onset of symptoms, the worker might not associate the current health problem with work done 10 or more years earlier. Especially with mesothelioma, the earlier it is diagnosed, the better the odds of surviving or at least of enjoying an improved quality of life. Therefore, if you were employed as a household appliance installer, or spent significant time around someone else who was, it is important to inform your doctor about the chance of asbestos exposure. Although the mesothelioma survival rate traditionally has been grim, early diagnosis and consistent treatments like mesothelioma radiation can improve the prognosis for this cancer.Sources
Bowker, Michael. Fatal Deception: The Untold Story of Asbestos (New York: Touchstone, 2003)
ITA Occupational Info - Household Appliance Installer (any industry)
Michigan Jobs and Career Portal - Household Appliance Installers and Repairers
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) - Laboratories and Shops
University of Wisconsin - Asbestos Disposal