Carpenters are one of the most important occupations in the construction industry. Before metal studs were used, carpenters were entirely responsible for the interior build of most commercial and residential spaces in the US.
Carpenter Workers Fast Facts (BLS.gov)
- National Employment, 2018: 1 million
- Similar Occupations: Construction and building inspectors, construction laborers and helpers, drywall and ceiling tile installers, flooring installers, general maintenance and repair workers
- Previously Exposed: Yes
- Still Being Exposed: Yes
- Asbestos-Related Disease Risk: Moderate
Unfortunately, asbestos exposure is a major risk for carpenters even today. A study from the 2018 International Journal of Epidemiology noted that former carpenters are among the most at-risk for mesothelioma. According to data collected by UK researchers, carpenters are up to 34 times more likely to develop mesothelioma than the general public.
Carpenter Workers Asbestos Exposure
Part of the carpenter’s job is to remodel homes and commercial buildings. Many of these renovations are performed on structures that were constructed when asbestos was used a lot. This means that carpenters are required to cut away the molding and insulation that contains asbestos. They also may need to remove ceiling and floor tiles that could have had asbestos added to them so they were soundproof and fireproof. When these items are cut or disturbed at all, asbestos dust is blown into the air and can be inhaled by workers.
A regular face mask does not protect a carpenter from high concentrations of asbestos. This is the reason that OSHA mandates respirator use when it is likely that asbestos is present when a building is being renovated.
Carpenters who often worked on construction projects before 1980 often had to work with asbestos sheets. They had to cut them into sizes that were proper for various applications. Carpenters often finished their workday covered in asbestos dust.
Scientific Studies on Carpenters Asbestos Exposure
A study in 1983 looked at 127 buildings in the US and found at least 50% of them had asbestos fireproofing insulation sprayed on the ceilings. At the beginning of renovations by carpenters, the typical asbestos fiber concentration was less than 2 fibers per cubic centimeter.
But when the removal of the asbestos-containing materials was started, workers were exposed to 16.4 asbestos fibers per cubic centimeter when the material was left dry and removed. When it was wetted down before it was removed, airborne fiber concentrations were under 2 fibers per cubic centimeter.
A 2012 study that was published in a Danish medical journal looked at a 55-year-old carpenter who had pleural effusion in his right lung in 2000. He also developed the same condition in his left lung in 2003. The carpenter also developed pleurisy, a lung inflammation that causes pain while breathing. There was no medical explanation for his condition.
But they found out that he was exposed to asbestos for six months in the early 1970s when he worked with roof sheets that had asbestos in them. Doctors concluded his condition was caused by his asbestos exposure.
Carpenters Asbestos and Mesothelioma Lawsuits
The family of a deceased carpenter named Searr Delcambre filed a wrongful death lawsuit in 2008 against AO Smith Corp. and dozens of other companies. The family said the main developed mesothelioma from working around asbestos-containing materials. The lawsuit also alleged that the defendants were negligent because they did not test their products containing asbestos before delivering for use by workers. The companies also allegedly did not warn consumers of the many dangers of asbestos exposure.
US Gypsum Company made roofing, plaster, cement, and adhesives that contained asbestos. Also, Congoleum Corporation made floor products that contained asbestos. Georgia-Pacific Company made joint compound and drywall adhesive that contained asbestos.