Cabinet makers used wood, glue, paint, and other materials to create functional works of art. Unfortunately, in the mid-20th century, many cabinet making materials contained asbestos. Asbestos is a mineral that was later linked to serious illnesses like mesothelioma and lung cancer. Repeated exposure to these materials has caused cabinet makers to develop cancer decades after the fact.
How Cabinet Makers Were Put at Risk
Before the advent of mass production, cabinet making was a revered and challenging profession. Cabinet makers were skilled craftspeople who spent years perfecting their work. They built ornate cabinets and storage units for both commercial and residential settings.
Woodworking — and cabinet making in particular — began relying heavily on asbestos-based materials in the 1920s. Though these materials improved the cabinet making process, they also put the crafters’ lives in danger.
Eventually, handcrafted cabinets lost out to their mass-produced successors in the 1980s (for the most part).
However, by that point woodworking was a thriving hobby for the middle class. Asbestos-based materials were phased out shortly thereafter. However, thousands of crafters and cabinet makers may have already been exposed.
Multiple generations of cabinet makers who worked in the mid-20th century were exposed to the deadly mineral on a daily basis. Today, that danger lingers as more people are diagnosed with asbestos-related illnesses.
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What Cabinet-Making Products Contain Asbestos?
Professional cabinet makers and skilled hobbyists alike spent long periods of time in cramped, dusty garages and shops. They would cut, saw, and sand the materials needed to make cabinets for hours. This created unavoidable clouds of dust laced with toxic asbestos fibers.
The wood used to make the cabinets did not contain asbestos. However, many other materials used to assemble and refine them did. These materials made the cabinets dangerous to human health.
Cabinet-making products that used asbestos included:
- Paints and finishes
- Paper linings in their interiors
- Veneers on cabinet exteriors
The Dangers of Asbestos Fibers
When released into the air, microscopic asbestos fibers can be inhaled or swallowed. Once inside the body, the fibers lodge into the protective lining of major organs like the lungs, heart, and abdomen.
Over time, the fibers can cause progressive damage to tissue. This damage eventually leads to incurable, long-term diseases. The more serious ones, like mesothelioma and lung cancer, can be deadly. However, these illnesses normally do not arise until 20-50 years after the initial exposure.
At the time, asbestos was thought to be the best material available to strengthen and fireproof cabinets. Manufacturers of asbestos-based products hid the dangerous truth from the public for decades.
Due to this corporate secrecy, cabinet makers were never warned to wear protective masks when working with products made with asbestos.
Cabinet Makers and On-the-Job Asbestos Risks
Outside of their homes, shops, or factories, cabinet makers often worked on job and construction sites. This meant they could be exposed through the activities of other tradespeople who worked with asbestos-containing construction materials.
Common materials on worksites that used asbestos included:
- Ceiling and floor tiles
- Machinery, brake pads, and gaskets
Cabinet workers were also at risk on renovation sites. The removal of old building materials could release asbestos fibers into the air.
Today, asbestos is not frequently used on construction sites, but the risk still exists on renovation jobs. Without proper knowledge on how to handle asbestos, workers could be seriously harmed.
Whether installing, removing, or renovating, thousands of these workers were exposed to asbestos fibers throughout their careers. They were unaware that unseen fibers could eventually kill them.
Who Else Was at Risk?
Cabinet makers themselves were not the only ones at risk. Depending on where the work was done, their families and other workers could have been in danger too.
Other groups at risk of exposure from cabinet making include:
Families of Cabinet Makers
The immediate family of a cabinet maker may have been put at risk in several ways.
- If cabinet making was done as a hobby, it was more likely done at home. Asbestos-containing materials could have been found or stored at home, inadvertently exposing the cabinet maker’s loved ones in the process.
- If the cabinet maker worked in the construction industry or in a factory, asbestos fibers and dust could cling to their clothes or skin. When they returned home from work, their family members could be exposed to the fibers.
Those who work in the home improvement or construction industries could have been put at risk if they disturbed cabinets made with asbestos. Renovators, electricians, and plumbers are some of the groups that are at risk. If they were repeatedly exposed to asbestos, these workers could also carry it home to their families through their clothes.
Help for Cabinet Makers Exposed to Asbestos
After decades in business, the cabinet making industry has left several groups of people at risk.
Simply put, there is no telling how many people — either directly or indirectly involved in cabinet making — are part of the 3,000 new mesothelioma cases diagnosed every year.
Yet thousands have already been diagnosed with or died from asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma. With each passing year, the risk for older or retired cabinet makers getting sick increases.
For many victims of asbestos exposure and their family members, the most important thing is to seek treatment for the diseases they now face. But the sad fact is that many cannot afford the unexpected and high cost of treatment.
It is for this reason that many choose to pursue legal action against asbestos companies. These companies profited knowing that thousands of Americans could get sick from using their products.
If you or someone you love was a cabinet maker who developed mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, you can seek compensation. Keep in mind, though, that your time to file a legal claim may be limited.
Contact us today for a free legal case review to see if we can help you.