Before the advent of mass production, cabinetmaking was a revered and challenging profession. Cabinetmakers were skilled craftspeople who spent years perfecting their woodwork in order to build ornate, finely made cabinets and storage units, installed in both commercial and residential settings.
Eventually, handcrafted cabinets lost out to their mass-produced successors in the 1980s, but woodworking was already a thriving hobby for the middle class. When it came to woodworking and cabinetmaking in particular, the practice had started involving heavy use of asbestos in the 1920s.
Multiple generations of cabinetmakers who worked during that 60-year period were exposed to the deadly mineral on a daily basis. Today, that danger lingers for anyone exposed to their work.
Cabinetmakers and Asbestos Exposure
Professional cabinetmakers and skilled amateurs alike once spent many a long day in crowded, dusty garages and shops. The work involved cutting, sawing, and sanding a variety of cabinet components, creating unavoidable clouds of dust laced with something far more toxic than woodchips: asbestos fibers.
When released into the air, these microscopic fibers can be inhaled into the lungs or ingested into the stomach, where they lodge into the thin protective lining of major organs. There, they can sit dormant for latency periods of 20 to 50 years before forming incurable, cancerous diseases like mesothelioma and lung cancer.
At the time, asbestos was lauded as a “miracle mineral” and was thought to be the best material available to strengthen and fireproof construction materials. Asbestos-using manufacturers, though well aware of their products’ risks, went to great lengths to ensure the public never learned them.
Due to this corporate secrecy, cabinetmakers were never warned to wear protective masks when working with products made with asbestos – a few of which included:
- Veneers on cabinet exteriors
- Paper linings in their interiors
- Paints and finishes
As well as manufacturing units in factories and shops, cabinetmakers often worked right on job sites. This meant being exposed to the activities of other tradespeople, who worked with asbestos-containing construction materials like insulation, drywall, and floor or ceiling tiles as well as asbestos-containing machinery like brake pads and gaskets.
New construction was not the only threat. Cabinetmakers were also at risk on demolition and renovation sites. Whether building, installing, or renovating, thousands of these workers breathed in toxic asbestos dust throughout their careers, unaware that even a single fiber could kill them.
Help for Cabinetmakers Exposed to Asbestos
After decades in business, the cabinetmaking industry has left several groups of people at risk:
- The cabinetmakers themselves, who are only now being diagnosed with mesothelioma decades after retiring.
- Cabinetmakers’ families, who have potentially suffered secondary exposure from asbestos dust brought home on their loved ones’ clothes.
- Builders, carpenters, renovators, plumbers, electricians, and anyone else in the construction, demolition, or home improvement business today, who are at risk of exposure from cabinets and other asbestos-containing products and materials when working in older buildings.
- Their families, too.
Simply put, there is no telling how many of these people, either directly or indirectly involved in cabinetmaking, contribute to the nation’s 3,000 new mesothelioma cases every year. Several more decades could pass before all of them are diagnosed.
Yet thousands have already been diagnosed. Thousands more have already died.
For many victims of asbestos exposure and their family members, the important thing now is raising public awareness of asbestos risks and standing up to the companies that exposed their employees to avoidable dangers. It is for this reason that many choose to pursue justice.
Sokolove Law has more than 40 years of experience working in cases like these, helping families get the justice they deserve for their loved ones’ unnecessary suffering. If you worked or lived with a cabinetmaker who developed mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, you have a limited amount of time to seek compensation. Contact us today for a free legal consultation to see if we can help you.