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Why was asbestos exposure so common for aircraft mechanics?

On Behalf of | Jun 15, 2021 | Occupational Asbestos Exposure

Over the years, several reports confirmed that Northwest Airlines operated sites with known asbestos risks throughout the peak of their business. Two Minnesota sites included the 7th Street Track Hangar and the 7th Street Team Track, though other locations may have held the risk of exposure as well.

These risks were serious, especially in the past few decades. And aircraft maintenance technicians at Northwest Airlines – or any other airline, for that matter – faced an increased risk of asbestos exposure for two reasons in particular.

1. Asbestos was in nearly all of their equipment for years

As we discussed in a previous blog post, asbestos was present throughout a mechanic’s entire workplace. Anything they came in contact with or used daily likely contained asbestos, including:

  • Gloves and personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Brakes and brake pads
  • Engine parts
  • Gaskets and valves
  • Repair tools
  • Insulation materials
  • Asbestos blankets

Most of these materials contained asbestos at least until the 1970s and 1980s.

2. It was a part of nearly every aspect of the job

Aircraft maintenance technicians might specialize in one area or manage several tasks related to maintenance or repairs. Regardless, their duties generally include:

  • Inspecting
  • Repairing and replacing broken parts
  • Disassembling and rebuilding parts
  • Welding airframes
  • Retrofitting older aircrafts

Due to the asbestos present in many of the tools and equipment mentioned above, most of these tasks carried a high risk of releasing asbestos fibers into the air. This can make it difficult to pinpoint precisely how aircraft maintenance technicians suffered asbestos exposure on the job.

However, that does not mean that mechanics cannot seek compensation if they face a mesothelioma diagnosis. If they can trace the exposure to asbestos to their work, they can still pursue compensation from negligent employers and manufacturers.


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