Injuries and deaths are far too common in carpentry. On a daily basis, carpenters are exposed to health and safety risks like heavy lifting, dangerous machinery, extreme temperatures, toxic solvents, and toxic molds and fungi.
Thanks to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) efforts to increase safety awareness, carpenters are more empowered to protect against these risks than ever before. By contrast, those who worked during the 1900s were kept in the dark about 1 of the worst hazards of all: asbestos.
Before metal studs were invented to frame drywall, carpenters were responsible for framing the inside and outside of virtually every residential, industrial, and commercial building as well as building smaller-scale products like furniture. This was also a time before the dangers of asbestos became public knowledge.
Most asbestos-made carpentry materials were phased out of production in the 1980s as a result. But the damage was already done. After decades of rampant asbestos use, 1 in 10 carpenters who were young men at that time will die from the lethal and incurable asbestos-caused disease mesothelioma.
Carpenters and Asbestos Exposure
Carpenters were exposed to hundreds of materials while assembling a building or structure, and almost every product made before the 1980s had the potential to contain asbestos. These include:
- Wallboard products like drywall and tape
- Finishing cement
- Floor tiles
- Joint compounds
- Patching plasters
- Insulation (both spray-on and panel)
- Roofing shingles and siding
Asbestos was originally meant to protect these products against fire, heat, and decay. The mineral was commonly used in construction throughout the 20th century. As early as the 1920s, however, researchers found indisputable evidence that inhaled or ingested asbestos could trigger asbestosis, mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, and other fatal and debilitating diseases.
Carpentry is a versatile skill, part of a variety of roles and careers. As well as general, specialty, and heavy-construction carpenters, those at the highest risk of developing these diseases include:
- Floor layers
These professionals used a variety of hand and power tools to cut, hammer, and sand asbestos-containing materials, unknowingly generating large amounts of asbestos-contaminated dust in often cramped spaces. The asbestos companies that manufactured these materials were well aware of the risks but chose to keep them hidden.
That corporate decision left carpenters with insufficient protection against the airborne fibers that would eventually claim their lives.Help for Carpenters Exposed to Asbestos
Help for Carpenters Exposed to Asbestos
Though carpenters rarely work on large-scale projects anymore – and most manufacturers have phased out asbestos-containing products – several factors put carpenters at continued risk today. For example:
- Carpenters are occasionally called upon for framing, insulating, and other construction work. Though they’re now trained to wear protection, some respirator filters protect against asbestos fibers to only a certain degree – yet all it takes is 1 fiber to trigger an asbestos-related disease.
- Older buildings constructed before the 1980s likely still contain contaminated materials. Demolition or renovation projects in such buildings sometimes involve cutting away these materials, which releases asbestos into the air.
- Because of the long latency period of asbestos-related diseases (symptoms may not appear until 20 to 50 years after first exposure) carpenters exposed to asbestos decades ago are only now facing potential diagnosis.
Another threat people often overlook is the risk of secondary exposure. Anyone in proximity to a carpenter at work is at risk, too, as asbestos dust spreads easily. So are family members, who may be exposed to dust brought home on workers’ clothes, hair, or tools.
Yet all is not lost. Because manufacturers of asbestos-containing products and materials knew their products contained asbestos and willingly exposed carpenters, their coworkers, and their families, those affected by asbestos-caused diseases have the right to take legal action.
If you or a loved one was injured by carpentry-related asbestos exposure, whether directly or indirectly, you can get help. After devoting nearly 40 years to these types of cases, Sokolove Law is proud to be a trusted resource for families seeking the justice they deserve for their trauma. We may be able to support you, too, through this difficult time. Contact us today for a free consultation to find out about your legal options.