In communities like Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse, New York, many households contained residential boilers known as a round series boiler or snowman boiler. These boilers were fueled by coal, oil, gas, or wood and produced steam or hot water, which was delivered to radiators through a system of pipes in order to heat a residence. Up until the early 1960s, a round series residential boiler was often covered in inch thick asbestos insulation, otherwise known as asbestos shorts. Hot water or steam pipes associated with these boilers were insulated with asbestos-containing pipe covering and insulating cement. Depending on the manufacturer, interior sections of a round boiler incorporated asbestos insulation in order to insulate combustion chambers. Individuals who installed, repaired and maintained round boilers were exposed to asbestos, which can cause mesothelioma or lung cancer.
Residential boilers were typically installed in the basement of a home. A residential round series boiler was usually made out of cast iron or steel and weighed between 650 and 800 pounds. Round series boilers were brought into a residence piece by piece and assembled on site. After the boiler was pieced together, asbestos shorts were applied to exterior surfaces in order to retain the boiler’s heat so that it could function properly. The application of asbestos shorts often involved mixing over 250 pounds of raw asbestos fibers with water and then applying it to the boiler surface. Pursuant to manufacturers’ recommendations, these boilers not only required the use of asbestos insulation, but also required that the insulation be applied at the residence after the boiler was installed. This not only put boilermakers and plumbers at risk for exposure to harmful asbestos fibers, but it put those who lived in the house where work was conducted at risk as well.
Even though square sectional boilers were less common in residential homes, boilermakers and plumbers also installed and removed sectional boilers that incorporated asbestos insulation throughout interior sections. Square sectional boilers were square in shape and made out of cast iron or steel and unlike a round series boiler, the exterior sections were not typically covered with asbestos shorts. Because of size and weight, sectional boilers were assembled on site. Prior to the 1970s, interior sections of square sectional boilers contained aircell asbestos insulation between the jacket and sectional heating sections. Depending on the manufacturer, square sectional boilers also contained asbestos gaskets; asbestos rope and/or packing; and asbestos cement. Plumbers and boilermakers installed asbestos components during the installation of sectional boilers.
The most extensive form of asbestos exposure took place during the removal or tear-out of old residential boilers. Because residential boilers were most commonly located in the basement of a house, boilermakers quite often used a claw hammer or sledge hammer to reduce the boiler to rubble for easier removal. As both round series and sectional boilers were covered in or contained asbestos materials, demolition of these boilers caused a tremendous amount of asbestos dust and fibers to be released into the air. Ventilation was often poor in residential basements and when the asbestos dust was emitted from demolition work, it recirculated in the basement long after the boiler was demolished. This also increased not only the boilermaker or plumber’s risk of asbestos exposure, but it also put the home owners at risk for prolonged and continuous asbestos exposure.
Regular maintenance of boilers also emitted asbestos dust and fibers into the air as repairs frequently required disturbance of asbestos insulation. After repairs were made, asbestos furnace cement was used to patch the hole. After its application, the asbestos cement was sanded, which released asbestos dust into the air. Manufactures of the residential boilers included: American Standard, Burnham, Crane Company, Dunkirk Boilers, General Electric, Gurney Heater Manufacturing Company, Kohler Company, National Radiator, Peerless, Sears, Hydrotherm, U.S. Radiator, and Weil-McLain.
In the process of representing boilermakers, plumbers, HVAC personnel and their families, our attorneys have gathered numerous medical and liability documents that could be instrumental in your legal representation. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease as a result of working with or around residential boilers and/or furnaces, contact us today for a free and confidential case evaluation.