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You use flame or electric current to join metal to metal. You’re a welder and have been for years now.
But in the process of fusing metal pieces and parts, you became exposed to asbestos.
As a result, your risk of developing mesothelioma is probably high.
The asbestos to which you were exposed was contained in products unique to your trade. These include:
Asbestos was added to these to block the intense heat generated by the process of welding. It is a cheap and plentiful mineral with an amazing ability.
For example, makers of welding rods found it beneficial to coat them with asbestos. They also mixed asbestos together with the nickel and chromium used in fashioning the rods in order to give the finished welds extra strength.
You also ran into trouble as a result of the protective clothing you wore. Those garments contained asbestos to keep your hands, arms and body, cool and comfortable.
But as the years went by, your gloves, blankets and aprons began to fray or tear. As that happened, the asbestos on the inside was able to find its way outside and into the air.
Fortunately, manufacturers of rods and other welding supplies, including clothing, curbed their use of asbestos by the time the 1990s came along.
Unfortunately, pre-1990s rods and supplies — especially clothing — are still in use, so you might even now be encountering asbestos in the routine course of your job. And you might also be still coming across asbestos if you’re working today on a jobsite where repair, retrofitting, renovation or even demolition of pre-1990s structures or objects is underway.
That’s because the original materials used in constructing that structure or object likely contained asbestos — and anything you do now that disturbs the asbestos will release it into the air.
Also, the tighter the space in which your welding work takes place, the more concentrated the asbestos particles are in the air around you.
The link between asbestos you breathe or swallow is well known and beyond debate. Here’s what happens if you inhale asbestos.
The particles — in the shape of tiny fibers — travel deep into your lungs. There is no possibility of them ever coming back out.
In your lungs, they work to corrupt healthy cells and turn them into cancer. It turns out that the healthy cells that asbestos has the greatest success corrupting are the ones that line the outside of your lungs.
This corruption doesn’t occur immediately. It takes a long, long time — usually anywhere from 10 to 50 years from the moment those asbestos fibers go into your lungs.
The cancer that eventually erupts is mesothelioma. Although it takes decades to arrive, it only takes a matter of a few months for it to overwhelm your entire body if you don’t get treatment.
Asbestos exposure is a matter that has for quite a while bothered the unions representing tradesmen whose work brings them into contact with the toxic mineral.
One of those concerned unions is the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States, Canada and Australia (UA).
This union represents more than 370,000 active and retired tradesmen in North America and Australia. Many of the members are welders. Others are fitters, plumbers and HVAC technicians.
The UA has set up training programs designed to help welders work safely in various environments where asbestos might be lurking.
Take time to check out what this union offers — not just with regard to education but also in terms of medical benefits.
Medical benefits are vital because treating mesothelioma is a very expensive proposition. You’ll want to make sure you have all the financial help you can get if a battle with mesothelioma is in store for you.
And this union is a good place to start gearing up for that fight.