Study finds sheet metal workers at high risk of asbestos-related disease

A new study confirms the dangers to sheet metal workers from working around asbestos-containing materials.

Death from asbestos-related diseases occurs at a higher rate in sheet metal workers as compared to the general population, according to the findings of a new study published in the April 2015 volume of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

New findings

Conducted by The Sheet Metal Occupational Health Institute Trust or SMOHIT, the study followed up on a previous medical examination program that began in 1986. In its current phase, the study continued to follow a group of more than 17,000 long-time sheet metal workers who had been part of the original group, this time to determine and examine subsequent causes of death.

Spikes in the rates of these asbestos-related diseases were found:

  • Mesothelioma: a cancer of the linings around vital organs
  • Malignant neoplasm of the pleura: cancerous tumors in the lining around the lungs
  • Asbestosis: scarring of lung tissue from inhaling asbestos fibers
  • Lung cancer
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD: a lung disease involving bronchitis and emphysema that severely limits breathing capacity

The researchers concluded that their study "provides additional evidence that workers who experienced largely intermittent and indirect exposure to asbestos are at increased risk of asbestos-related diseases and at risk for COPD."

Nature of sheet metal work

As detailed in the report, certain characteristics of sheet metal work explain the likely causes of asbestos-related diseases in this population. As the name implies, the profession involves the installation of sheets of metal onto buildings, fixed objects or products. Examples of places where sheet metal is affixed include roofing, ventilation systems and ducts, facades, appliances and more.

In addition to working in sheet metal production shops, sheet metal workers are employed across many industries, including construction, renovation, appliance manufacturing, shipyard work, railroads and more.

In the past, sheet metal workers often handled asbestos-containing gaskets, metal rings that seal joints, but much workplace asbestos exposure was indirect because of working around asbestos-containing insulation and fireproofing materials. Asbestos may have been inhaled when insulation or fireproofing was sprayed or later disturbed during renovations or repairs, releasing fibers into the air.

If you or a loved one has developed an asbestos-related disease (or has died from such a condition) and has worked in the sheet metal profession, discuss your situation with an experienced asbestos attorney who can lay out your potential legal remedies, which could include a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.

From offices in Salisbury, North Carolina, the personal injury lawyers at The Law Offices of Wallace & Graham represent asbestos victims across the nation.

Keywords: study, sheet metal worker, asbestos, disease, illness, death, SMOHIT, cancer, mesothelioma, asbestosis, COPD, exposure, insulation, gasket, fireproofing, fibers