Resources for Patients and their Families

Insulators at Risk to Develop Mesothelioma

Insulators and Asbestos Insulation

The need for insulation has been a constant throughout the history of mankind. As the Industrial Age took hold in America, modern and sophisticated methods were employed to provide temperature stabilization in everything from buildings and boilers to pipes and personal residences. This basic and essential human requirement has, over time, given rise to specialized tradespersons known as insulators. From Ancient Greece to the present day, insulators have been increasingly called upon to provide protection from the elements in new and more intricate ways. While some insulators learn their craft through on-the-job experience, many also complete formal apprenticeships. Specific skills are required, ranging from shop math and science to construction knowledge in applications such as woodworking, sheet metal layout and blueprint reading. Apprenticeship programs usually involve four years of both job training and classroom education.

Insulators are Frequently Exposed to Asbestos on the Job

Because insulators work primarily indoors and in confined settings where asbestos has been known to have widespread use, they are especially at risk to contract an asbestos cancer like mesothelioma. And the most common use of asbestos has been for insulation - not just in walls and ceilings, but flooring and siding, pipe wrapping and the insides of boilers. Even though use of asbestos has been mostly replaced, primarily by different forms of fiberglass, insulators still face a high degree of danger in job settings due to the fact that many jobsites were initially insulated with asbestos products. Asbestos has still not been completely banned in the US, though it is illegal in many other countries. In fact, the United States Environmental Protection Agency requires that hazardous materials workers inspect and remove dangerous and sometimes-lethal asbestos materials before many building renovations are undertaken. In addition, insulators must currently obey strict safety guidelines to prevent inhalation of irritants, and often must wear protective masks, respirators and suits.

But despite today's modern precautions, many insulators worked during a time when the toxic qualities of asbestos were unknown. As a result, they used many asbestos-containing materials (ACM) and working without the special protective devices listed above. Though asbestos itself dates back to ancient times, it was first used in American construction projects in the 1860's and became widely used in the 1920's, finally branching out into literally thousands of different applications by the mid-20th century. It was not until the 1960's that the connection between asbestos and mesothelioma was indisputably proven. And even with that initial knowledge, many years passed before asbestos use was mostly curtailed. Thus, for over a hundred years, insulators were at an extreme and increased risk of asbestos inhalation and for developing mesothelioma cancer without knowing the dangers of their labor. Even part-time workers and relatives of those who worked with and around insulation and construction at that time were at substantial risk.

Insulators Use a Variety of Asbestos Products

As noted above, the most widely used application of asbestos in construction came in the form of insulation. Insulation products containing asbestos include (but are by no means limited to): pipe covering, insulating block, cement, felt, board, coating, seals and tapes. Even at jobs where insulators didn't directly use asbestos-containing insulation materials, they still might have inhaled asbestos fibers from products used by other workers, due to the enclosed nature of their vocation.

Some of the manufacturers and brand names of the above-listed materials are:

Pipe Covering and Block

Armstrong World Industries Nonpareil High Pressure Covering Block, Atlas Turner Aircell, Atlas Turner Finecell, Atlas Turner Pipe, Atlas Turner Simplex, Atlas Turner Newtherm, Carey Pipe Insulation, Carey Lennolite, Carey Super-Light 85% Magnesia, Celotex Defendex Pipe Covering, Celotex Excel PB (Piping and Block), Celotex Fyrex P, Celotex Glosscell PB, Eagle Picher 85% Magnesia Pipe Cover, Fibreboard Pabco 85% Magnesia, Keasbey & Mattison K&M Pipe Insulation, K&M Hy-Temp Blocks, Keene Ehret Pipe Covering, Durant Insulated Pipe Covering, Keene Corporation Endure Pipe Covering Block & Cement, Keene (Ehret) 85% Magnesia, Keene Mono-Block, Keene Corporation Thermalite, Keene Corporation Thermasil, Keene Corporation Mundet

Cements, Adhesives and Boiler Coverings

Combustion Engineering Super #3000, Combustion Engineering SDK 50 Cement, Combustion Engineering Hilite Cement, Combustion Engineering Stic-Tite Cement, MH Detrick Casing Cement, MH Detrick Bonding Cement, MH Detrick Fibrous Adhesive, MH Detrick No. 7 Asbestos Cement, MHD Finishing Cement, MH Detrick MW Insulating Cement, MH Detrick Pyroscat Cement, MH Detrick Utility Thermal Cement, Quigley Waterproof Cement, Armstrong World Industries 314 Acoustic Cement, Armstrong World Industries Nonpareil High Pressure Cement, Armstrong World Industries S-89 (Adhesive), Armstrong World Industries S-90 (Adhesive), Atlas Turner N18 Cement, Carey Asbestos Cement, Carey Asbestos Tank Jackets, Carey Adhesive, Carey Fireguard, Carey Insulation Seal, Celotex Plastic Cement, Celotex Corporation S.I.S. Roof Adhesive, Celotex Corporation Vitricel Asbestos Sheets, Celotex Corporation S&K Paper, Celotex Corporation "1003" Cement, Celotex Corporation "111" High Temperature Cement, Celotex Corporation "330" Insulating Cement, Celotex Corporation "43" Finishing Cement, Celotex Corporation 106 Finishing Cement, Celotex Corporation 99 Finishing Cement, Celotex Corporation Eagle 20 Cement, Celotex Corporation Fireproofing Cement, Celotex Corporation Hi-Stick Insulating Cement, Celotex Corporation Hylo Cement, Celotex Corporation Hylo Finishing Cement, Celotex Corporation Insulseal - All Purpose, Celotex Corporation Navy Grade Cement, Celotex Corporation Navy Special Cement, Celotex Corporation One-Cote Cement, Fibreboard Pabco Hydroseal, Fibreboard Corp./Pabco "F1" Insulating Cement, Fibreboard Corp./Pabco 127 Cement, Fibreboard Corp./Pabco Prasco, Flintkote Fibrex Cement, Flintkote Cement Board, Flintkote Orangeburg Cement Pipe, Flintkote Cement Pipe, Flintkote Black Joint Cement, Keasbey & Mattison K&M Asbestos Cement, Keasbey & Mattison K&M Asbestos Cement, Keene Corporation BEH No. 1 Cement, Keene (Baldwin-Hill) No. 1 Plus, Keene Military Form. SuperPowerhouse, Keene Corporation Mundet Mineral Wool Cement, National Gypsum Gold Bond Texture Paint

Mesothelioma, Lung Cancer and Asbestosis are Common Diseases Contracted by Insulators

Frequently, a lot of time goes by from the end of asbestos exposure to the beginning of an asbestos-related disease. lung cancer sometimes does not materialize until ten years after a person was exposed to asbestos, and it can take up to fifty years for asbestosis and mesothelioma to appear. Quite often, symptoms in their early stages are diagnosed and subsequently dismissed as everyday ailments.

By the mid 70's a more widely known and accepted connection between asbestos exposure and pulmonary diseases such as mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer was becoming apparent. This was particularly applicable to workers who had extensive exposure to asbestos dust and fibers in an occupational setting. As a result, insulators and at times family members (who received second hand exposure to the asbestos dust from dirty clothes, shoes and hair) developed asbestos-related diseases. A more-detailed explanation of each of these illnesses is as follows:


Since mesothelioma often takes thirty to fifty years or more for asbestos inhalation to result in disease, this once-rare and severe form of cancer is sadly becoming a more frequent diagnosis for insulators and other specialized tradespeople. As asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma, those who worked with asbestos-containing materials (ACM) in the 50's, 60's and 70's are just now finding themselves with the breathing problems, chest pains, and of course coughs (sometimes blood-producing) that are often symptoms of occupational lung disease. Pleural mesothelioma primarily occurs in the lining of the lungs (also known as the pleura), but can also appear in the linings of the abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma) or heart (pericardial mesothelioma). Loss of appetite, unwanted weight loss, weakness and tiredness are common symptoms of malignant mesothelioma. This disease has been known metastasize and spread to other areas in the body and has a poor prognosis.

Mesothelioma Lung Cancer

Unlike mesothelioma cancer, lung cancer can develop from exposure to a variety of substances. However, a combination of asbestos exposure and cigarette smoking greatly increases a person's risk of developing lung cancer, by magnitudes of up to 90 percent over non-smokers who have been exposed to asbestos.


Asbestosis is also exclusively a result of working with and around ACM, asbestosis is a scarring of one's lung tissue, resulting in shortness of breath and sometimes even leading to complete respiratory failure as one's lung capacity is compromised. It usually takes between five to ten years for symptoms of asbestosis to appear following asbestos exposure. More than half of asbestosis sufferers also develop pleural plaques (scarring of the lung's lining).

Author: Linda Molinari

Editor in Chief, Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance

Linda Molinari