Asbestos Use in Construction Materials
For much of the 20th century, asbestos could be found from top to bottom in almost every building constructed. Asbestos was used in a wide variety of construction materials, including pipes, shingles, drywall, bricks, paint, and flooring tiles. Asbestos is heat resistant, and was used in both insulation and fireproofing materials. The substance was used as an additive to help strengthen concrete, asphalt, and siding.
Despite its strength, however, asbestos is also pliable, which means it can break. When that happens, asbestos fibers can be released into the air, where they’re inhaled by anyone who happens to be around them. With this in mind, it comes as no surprise that construction workers are more at risk of, not only being exposed to asbestos, but one day developing an asbestos-related illness like mesothelioma or lung cancer.
Asbestos Risk to Construction Workers
Asbestos is unique in that, because it was once used to manufacture all manner of tools, parts, and building materials, it poses a threat to virtually everyone who works in the construction industry. This is in contrast to, say, those who work on road crews and face unique risks that other construction workers do not.
This risk extends past those who did the original construction work, to anyone who may be hired to do renovation or demolition. As noted before, asbestos-containing products are at their most dangerous when they are damaged or broken apart. When a construction worker’s job is to specifically break something or take it apart, they can be at an even higher risk of asbestos exposure. This puts even more people at risk, as asbestos fibers can cling to a worker’s face, clothes, and hair, and then be spread to others.
While asbestos is no longer used in many construction materials, it has not been phased out altogether. It continues to be used in some materials, such as corrugated sheeting and roofing materials. In addition, it remains in buildings across the country that some estimates number in the hundreds of thousands. While some effort has been made to remove asbestos from these buildings, especially those used by the public, they have not been entirely cleared out. In many cases, asbestos will be allowed to remain, but is treated with a sealant that simply keeps it from spreading. While this helps mitigate the risks, it doesn’t completely eliminate them. Asbestos can continue to harm others for years after it was originally used.
Construction Jobs at Risk for Asbestos Exposure
While most construction workers find themselves at some risk of asbestos exposure, the following is a list of specific jobs that are especially susceptible.
- Wrecking crews
- Sheet metal workers
- HVAC repairmen
- Brick Layers
- Tile Setters
- Iron Workers
If You Work in Construction and Have Been Exposed to Asbestos
Unfortunately, those who suffer from asbestos-related illnesses don’t realize it until years after they were exposed. In these situations, it’s always important to remember that you’re not alone. Many individuals who worked in the construction industry and later developed asbestos-related illnesses have come forward, and the courts have compensated them for their medical bills, inability to work, and other expenses. If you have questions, consider speaking with an experienced asbestos attorney. They can help answer your questions, and tell you what the law says about your specific situation.