Aircraft mechanics work hard to maintain the safety of the airborne through routine upkeep of both military and commercial airplanes. They perform a variety of daily tasks ranging from changing out batteries and brake pads to repairing hydraulic systems and assembling engines. Most aircraft mechanics work on airfields, at hangars, or at repair stations. For a nation that relies on safe air travel, this profession is incredibly important for maintaining fleets of planes and keeping flights safe—but it can also be quite risky. While much has been done to increase safety procedures, aircraft mechanics who were employed prior to 1981 may have been exposed to asbestos.
Aircraft mechanics may face an increased risk for mesothelioma due to significant exposure to asbestos in aircraft parts. Before 1981, the U.S. Navy used multiple aircraft components that contained asbestos, including engine insulation, adhesives, brake pads, and electrical insulation. Asbestos was a top choice for these components because it is highly resistant to fire and could prevent fire damage.
Aircraft mechanics who worked on brakes have an increased risk of asbestos exposure. During use, testing, and replacement, brakes undergo intense pressure, which then grinds away the outer asbestos layer and creates a fine dust. This dust is then unknowingly breathed in. Aircraft mechanics who were exposed to the asbestos residue now face serious risks for mesothelioma later in life.
In addition to the brakes, epoxies, paint, and insulation often contained asbestos. Application and removal of these components likely caused asbestos particles to be released into the air where they were then inhaled by the very people trying to keep air travel safe.
In addition to planes, the U.S. Navy aircraft carriers were also built with asbestos in the paint and insulation. If you worked on one of these carriers prior to 1981, you were most likely exposed to asbestos and face a serious risk for mesothelioma.
Lawsuits for Aircraft Mechanics with Mesothelioma
All necessary precautions should be taken to reduce injury risks in the workplace. While aircraft maintenance is no easy task, use of asbestos in componentry created a dangerous workplace for those exposed.
Currently, Jenny Bowser is challenging Parker-Hannifin Corporation for endangering her husband’s life. Her husband Gerald Bowser was believed to have been exposed to asbestos during his time as an aircraft mechanic.
From 1965 to 1967, Mr. Bowser worked for Doan Helicopter in Daytona Beach, Florida. He later worked at a North Carolina airport where he routinely removed and installed airplane brakes, including four brands that contained asbestos. Among them were brakes produced by Parker-Hannifin.
In 2009, Mr. Bowser was diagnosed with mesothelioma. He died one year later. Mrs. Bowser filed a lawsuit against Parker-Hannifin Corporation because she and her lawyers believe that the asbestos used in Parker-Hannifin airplane brakes caused her husband’s mesothelioma, and ultimately, his death.
How Asbestos Can Impact the Health of Aircraft Mechanics
Asbestos has a bad reputation for a reason. Research has clearly shown a causal link between asbestos and mesothelioma. Asbestos has also been shown to lead to lung cancer.
There are two primary forms of asbestos. The first, serpentine, features curly fibers and has just one type— white asbestos or chrysotile. Chrysotile is the most commonly used type of asbestos and can lead to many health problems. Amphibole asbestos includes five types of asbestos that feature straight fibers. While more dangerous than chrysotile, both can lead to mesothelioma and other cancers, including lung cancer, throat cancer, and even ovarian cancer. All types of asbestos, regardless of fiber type, are classified by both the EPA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as cancer-causing substances.
While dangerous, asbestos is not fast acting. Aircraft mechanics exposed to asbestos may not have symptoms for decades. In addition, asbestos-related diseases are often misdiagnosed. They may also go undiagnosed until they are well advanced. Today, doctors are exploring new medications and treatment options for aircraft mechanics that have been diagnosed with mesothelioma.