Industrial workers have been exposed to various chemicals and toxins over the years. This exposure has resulted in lives been significantly shortened and has caused serious illnesses. Asbestos is one of these toxins that was once used in nearly every industrial project for its insulating properties.
Boiler pipes were not exempt from asbestos use. In addition to the insulation that wrapped around the boiler itself and its pipes, a special asbestos coating was applied to the inner wall of boiler pipes to prevent heat loss. The insulator was very effective, but very dangerous. Workers who applied this coating or worked with boilers were put at risk. Navy ship workers, especially those on nuclear submarines, were also at a heightened risk of asbestos exposure whether or not they worked in the boiler room. Employees of shipyards, power plants, and power stations may also have come in contact with boiler wall coat.
The wall coat is likely harmless when intact, but as with any paint or coating, it can chip, crack or flake over time. This is when it becomes dangerous. Any disturbance of materials containing asbestos can cause fibers to be released into the air. It is important to use extreme caution when dealing with anything that may have asbestos-containing products.
The offending substance was restricted in the 1970s, but there are still ships, as well as homes and buildings, that contain the toxic asbestos. People who live in older homes that are not properly maintained and those working at jobs that still use asbestos-containing materials have an increased risk of developing asbestos-related illnesses.