Former Steamfitter Describes His Asbestos Exposure at Syracuse University

Syracuse University

Syracuse University was founded in 1870. The school was initially established as an Episcopalian Institution; since 1920, it has identified itself as a secular university. The school’s main campus is located in the University Hill neighborhood of Syracuse, New York and is comprised of 112 buildings. Seventy-seven of the campus’ buildings were built after 1950.

Prior to the late 1970s, asbestos-containing materials, such as fireproofing, joint compound and pipe covering were incorporated into the construction of many Syracuse University buildings. Laborers who handled materials that contained asbestos or worked in the vicinity of others who did are at high risk for developing an asbestos-related disease, such as mesothelioma.

Fireproof insulation is a mix of asbestos, cement and waste materials from linen mills. The insulation was packaged in bags, which was then dumped into a machine where it was mixed with water and sprayed onto steel structural surfaces with a hose. During the application process, large clouds of dust and fibers were emitted into the air of the buildings where the material was being applied. Fire proofers who applied asbestos-containing fireproofing materials are at high risk for developing an asbestos-related disease, such as mesothelioma.

Asbestos-containing joint compound and pipe covering were also utilized in the construction process of Syracuse University buildings. Joint compound, also known as mud, was used on seams and joints over drywall tape. After each layer of mud dried, it was sanded down to a smooth surface and another layer was applied to the seam. During both the mixing process of asbestos joint compound and sanding process, dust and fibers became airborne, putting not only plasterers at risk for exposure, but others who also worked in the same vicinity.

Prior to the late 1970s, an intricate system of steam lines, used to heat buildings, ran throughout classroom buildings, residence halls and libraries at Syracuse University. Asbestos was incorporated as a component of high heat insulation materials, including pipe covering and block insulation. Due to wear and tear, it was common for asbestos-containing pipe covering to be removed and reapplied. After worn pipe covering was removed, asbestos insulation was reapplied so pipes could effectively contain steam. When asbestos-containing insulation was applied, it was cut with a band saw and the cement, used on pipe elbows, was mixed with water. Both processes emitted large amounts of asbestos-containing dust. Most workers were completely unaware of the dangers of exposure to the asbestos dust, and performed their work without masks or protective gear.

Many union and non-union laborers who worked on construction projects for Syracuse University were employed by various contractors throughout Central New York. In the process of representing workers and their families, we have gathered a vast amount of information regarding the type and variety of asbestos-containing products to which our clients were exposed. If you or a loved one once worked on construction projects at Syracuse University, and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer, we urge you to contact us regarding your legal rights.

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