Fireproofing insulation is a product that is applied to structural steel beams, columns and decks in buildings. The purpose of the product is to protect the steel from fatigue and collapse during a fire. Fireproofing insulation typically came in a dry powder form, packaged in paper bags. The dry material was mixed in a hopper with water and spray applied to the steel. Smaller applications were usually by trowel. During the 1960s and early 1970s, most fireproofing insulation contained asbestos.
The major manufacturers of asbestos-containing fireproofing were W.R. Grace (Monokote), United States Mineral (Cafco) and United States Gypsum Company. The EPA banned the use of asbestos in fireproofing in the early 1970s.
Exposures to asbestos from fireproofing occurred during various activities including the handling of the bags, the pouring of the dry powder into the mixer, and clean-up of fireproofing material that did not adhere to the steel during application and ended up on the floor or other surface. This material was usually scrapped up with a shovel or similar tool.
Exposures also occurred during disturbance of the dry material on the beams and columns by tradesmen running conduit and wiring along the beams and columns, installing brackets on the beams and columns for sprinkler system piping, and other construction work requiring disturbance of the material. The handling, mixing, disturbance and clean-up of the fireproofing caused the release, discharge and emission of unsafe levels of respirable asbestos fiber and dust from the product into the breathing zone of the worker, thereby contaminating the work place air with hazardous levels of asbestos.
There are no safe levels of exposure to asbestos, which is known to cause asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. Many workers were not given any warnings, training or protection while performing duties involving application, repair, or removal of fireproofing insulation.
Chances of occupational exposure were quite high before the 1980’s, when stricter regulations were created by environmental agencies. Risk continues for anyone involved in any remodeling, renovation or demolishing of older building structures. Precautions should be taken to avoid unwanted and unsafe exposure.
If you or someone you know has been exposed to asbestos as a result of handling or being involved with Fireproofing Insulation, and if you think such exposure may have caused you or your loved one to become ill with mesothelioma or any other form of asbestos related disease, please contact the lawyers at Clapper, Patti Schweizer & Mason for more information.