Construction workers run a high risk of asbestos exposure. In the mid-20th century, asbestos products were used to build schools, homes, offices, and other buildings and structures. It was also used in many construction-related materials including insulation, pipes, and cement. Today, construction workers could still be at risk if they work in older buildings.
The Dangers of Asbestos in Construction
In 2016, there were more than 1.4 million construction-related jobs in America, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number continues to grow, and 180,500 more construction jobs are expected to be added to the industry by 2026.
Construction labor is a difficult, physically challenging job. It is also considered one of the most dangerous careers for more than just the obvious reasons. When it comes to the risks that construction workers face, one danger most people do not think about is asbestos exposure.
For much of the 20th century, companies hailed asbestos as a “miracle mineral.” However, most construction workers — and the general public — did not know that asbestos was linked to cancer. This only came to light after asbestos had been used extensively for over 50 years.
Though asbestos is very rarely used on construction sites today, it still poses a threat when work is done on older buildings. As more and more people who worked in construction-related jobs decades ago are now being diagnosed with cancer, the problem is one that everyone should be aware of.
Asbestos & Construction in the 20th Century
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is nearly indestructible and resistant to fire, water, and sound. As a result, asbestos was used heavily in the construction industry from the 1920s to the early 1980s.
Asbestos use was at its height in the mid-1970s. A record-high 803,000 tons of asbestos were used by the United States in 1973. Unfortunately, asbestos came under scrutiny around this time for the number of health issues it could cause.
Tiny asbestos fibers, if inhaled or swallowed, can get stuck in a person’s body. The fibers are so strong that the human body cannot break them down. As a result, the fibers constantly irritate nearby tissue and cause long-term health problems.
Construction workers were particularly vulnerable to the dangers of asbestos. Workers blasted, sawed, and cut asbestos-rich materials, releasing deadly fibers into the air without knowing the health risks.
The most at-risk construction jobs included:
- Demolition crews
- Drywall installers
- Flooring installers
- Plasterers and cement workers
- Roofers and tile setters
These construction laborers can come into contact with asbestos in the following products, among many others:
- Cement powder
- Fireplace embers
- Flintkote tiles
- Flooring and roofing felt
- Insulation materials
- Keasbey and Mattison asbestos shingles
- Pipe and block insulation
- Ruberoid roofing asphalt
- Sealants and glue
- Specialty paper
- Spray-applied ACM
- U.S. Gypsum Company sheetrock texture
- W.R. Grace and Company zonolite plaster
- Wall patch compounds
- Welding rods
Construction Workers and Asbestos Exposure Today
Asbestos use has decreased in recent decades due to the public’s knowledge of the associated health risks. However, it is still a threat to construction workers today. Most occupational exposure now occurs when workers renovate, remove, or maintain asbestos-containing products or buildings that were made decades ago.
Without proper care or supervision, construction workers could be at risk of disturbing the asbestos fibers, releasing them into the air and inhaling them.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has estimated that 1.3 million employees in construction and general industry are exposed to asbestos on the job. In addition, asbestos is the primary cause of occupational cancer (such as mesothelioma) in the United States.
Secondhand Exposure & Family Members
Another important note is the possibility of secondhand exposure, also known as “take-home” exposure. When it comes to secondhand exposure, asbestos fibers settle on construction workers’ clothing or shoes and are released into the air once they arrive home. This puts the construction worker’s family at risk for asbestos exposure, too.
There have been many accounts of wives developing mesothelioma decades after washing the asbestos-laced clothes of their husbands who were exposed at work. Parents who brought asbestos-based materials and equipment home with them could have also exposed their families indirectly.
Though secondhand exposure could have easily been avoided with proper knowledge, the sad truth is that workers in the 20th century were not informed of the risks until it was too late. As a result, their entire families were put at risk.
Help for Construction Workers & Their Families
Asbestos exposure has a long latency period — anywhere from 20 to 50 years. Even if you or your loved one has been out of the construction industry for years, you still could be diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease.
It does not matter how much asbestos exposure occurred. Any level of exposure increases one’s risk of developing asbestos-related diseases.
Decades of Trusted Legal Help
Sokolove Law is dedicated to helping mesothelioma victims and their families seek the justice they may deserve from corporations who ignored the dangers of asbestos exposure.
Sokolove Law is mesothelioma law firm with over 40 years of experience in the industry. We have the resources to hold these corporations accountable.
If you choose to take legal action, you will be seeking compensation from the asbestos companies that wronged you and thousands of others. Many asbestos companies knew the deadly risks of asbestos use for decades but hid the truth to keep raking in profits. Court-ordered trusts have been established by these companies to help their victims get compensation.
Contact us today to see if we can help you get financial compensation for your asbestos-related disease. We can analyze your situation and, if you qualify, put you in contact with our legal team today.