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Aircraft Mechanics and Asbestos Exposure

man fixing airplane

Aircraft mechanics repair and overhaul airplane engines, airframes, hydraulic systems, and other mechanical systems to keep planes running safely and efficiently.  They work in hangars, in repair shops and on the flight line. They perform regular maintenance on airplanes and helicopters and conduct inspections of aircraft as required by the Federal Aviation Administration.

How Aircraft Mechanics Were Exposed to Asbestos

Many aircraft contain asbestos insulation and asbestos-containing parts such as gaskets, wiring and brake pads.  Both civilian and military aircraft mechanics who serviced the aircraft would be exposed to asbestos dust. Veterans of the U.S. Air Force may have been exposed to asbestos during military service. The Air Force used asbestos components on aircraft and vehicles from World War II into the 1980s.  Work on aircraft could produce airborne asbestos dust that a mechanic would inhale.

Are Aircraft Mechanics Still At Risk of Exposure to Asbestos?

American manufacturers have largely replaced asbestos used in brake linings and gaskets with safer materials. Most products no longer contain asbestos. But some aftermarket parts imported still contain asbestos. The U.S. has not banned the use of the cancer-causing material.

The most recent research on the incidence of mesothelioma among aircraft mechanics comes from Italy. Researchers with the Italian League Against Cancer reported the case of a 63-year-old aeronautical engineer who was involved in aircraft maintenance from 1963-2003 in Naples and Rome and was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. The researchers also noted the case of a 62-year-old man who worked as an aircraft mechanic at the Rome airport for 35 years and was diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Why Aircraft Mechanics Are Still At Risk of Mesothelioma

Symptoms of mesothelioma typically take 15 to 60 years to appear so someone who worked as an aircraft mechanic in the 1950s or 1980s may only recently have been diagnosed with asbestos disease. Mesothelioma is a signature disease of asbestos exposure. Significant portions of the people who develop mesothelioma are veterans.