OSHA reports that general construction work ranks as the most hazardous industry in the US. (OSHA.gov). While most construction deaths result from worksite accidents, some deaths are due to asbestos exposure and the deadly cancer mesothelioma. This is a terrible cancer that affects the lining of the lungs and other organs, and is nearly always fatal.
Asbestos is a highly heat and flame resistant substance that was often a key ingredient in many construction materials for decades. It was in the 1960s when scientists confirmed that breathing airborne asbestos particles can cause mesothelioma and asbestosis.
Construction companies have phased out the use of asbestos for the most part, but there are still buildings from the past that are full of asbestos products. This fact still puts construction workers at substantial risk for asbestos exposure. Even though there is much less asbestos being used in the trades today, it is likely that more workers will be diagnosed with mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos decades in the past.
Construction Workers At Risk
A recent study in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found that more than 1.3 million construction workers are at risk now to asbestos exposure. At higher risk are demolition workers who tear down buildings and dispose of debris that may be contaminated with asbestos. But the risk also is relevant for workers in any occupation who do renovations on older buildings; this is especially true for buildings that were constructed before the 1970s.
Every construction trade has its own specific hazards. For example, painters must be careful of dangerous chemical fumes, and roofers have to be aware of falling from heights. But the industry practice of putting asbestos in many construction products has put workers in construction at higher risk for many serious occupational diseases.
Trades that are at higher risk of asbestos exposure are:
- Crane and hoist workers
- Drywall tapers and hangers
- Home renovation specialists
- General laborers
- Demolition workers
Workers from several trades usually work on a single site, so it take only one negligent worker to put many at risk of asbestos exposure. It is easy for asbestos dust to spread around the jobsite. This can expose people to serious health risks who never even handled asbestos themselves. Even worse, it is possible that workers can bring dust back home on hair, tools, clothes and putting their families at risk of exposure.
Drywall Workers and Asbestos Exposure
Several scientific studies have shown that drywall workers are at a higher risk for various asbestos-related diseases. Workers commonly release fibers when they cut into drywall panels or attach them to the framework of the building. Drywall and tape has contained asbestos in the past. Plasterers have patched holes in sheets of drywall with compounds made from asbestos. Sanding down drywall tape compounds can put asbestos into the air.
A study from 1979 confirmed that when workers in the drywall trade sanded down drywall tape and the compounds, asbestos concentrations were much higher in the air. (onlinelibrary.wiley.com). The high concentration of asbestos particles in the air no doubt affected many workers in the area. It is unknown how many of them will come down with the disease; it can take decades for mesothelioma to develop in the lung lining.
Mason and Bricklayers and Asbestos Exposure
Masonry workers at one time were mixing raw asbestos to make bricks, stones and blocks. Obviously, this activity put them at high risk for developing cancer. Also, bricklayers also would cut the bricks down to size and then put them into place with adhesives and concretes that contained asbestos. Masonry workers also created dust from asbestos as they scraped up the mortar to prepare the surface for new bricks.
Roof and Tile Setters and Asbestos Exposure
These workers always were at a high risk of asbestos exposure. Asbestos shingles and tiles are a serious hazard for exposure to the deadly, tiny fibers. Tile setters used to mix and spread asbestos-laced grout or took it out when they upgraded the flooring of a building. And roofers commonly sprayed asphalt cut back that was full of asbestos on roof tops.
Painters and Asbestos Exposure
There are mesothelioma and lung cancer registries that have shown higher rates of mesothelioma in painters. This is a strong sign that asbestos exposure is common in this trade. Many workers have sprayed compounds with asbestos in them onto surfaces before painting.
Asbestos Construction Material Manufacturers
Some of the biggest manufacturers of these products containing asbestos were:
- R. Grace
- Johns Manville
- Owens Corning
- US Mineral Products
- Delaware Insulation
- Brunswick Fabrications
- Arta Group
- California Portland Cement
- Kentile Floors
- Hanson Permanente
Construction Site Asbestos Exposure Studies
Occupational health organizations usually agree that building products contaminated with asbestos can increase workers’ chances of getting an asbestos-related disease. Many of the registries note that higher incidences of mesothelioma and lung cancer have occurred in contractors exposed to asbestos.
A study in North Carolina found a higher rate for peritoneal cancers in some construction workers. (NIH.gov). There also was a higher rate of lung cancer in painters, brick masons and carpenters. An Italian clinical study also linked 250 mesothelioma diagnosis to construction work.
Asbestos and Mesothelioma Attorneys for Construction Workers
If you are a former construction worker and you have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, it is recommended to at least talk to a qualified mesothelioma attorney in your area. He can review your case to decide if there is a likelihood that a lawsuit or claim could result in compensation. To make this more likely, you will need to provide your attorney with your medical diagnosis records and detailed job and occupational history. With this information, he can determine if there is a likelihood of success.
Some good mesothelioma attorneys to consider for construction workers are:
Brayton & Purcell LLP
680 South Santa Fe Avenue
Los Angeles CA 90021
The attorneys at Brayton & Purcell have years of combined experience representing construction workers who are suffering from mesothelioma. For example, they have represented several insulators and related workers who spent a lot of work time dealing with asbestos insulation. These workers are at a much higher risk of developing a disease related to asbestos. These attorneys have a strong track record in winning substantial settlements and verdicts for their clients.
The Carlson Law Firm
1717 N. I-35 Suite 305
Round Rock TX 78664
This Texas law firm is experienced in representing former construction workers who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or asbestosis. It was common in Texas in the 1960s and 1970s to work close to asbestos. These attorneys take pride in representing clients whose health has been severely damaged due to the negligence of big construction corporations.
JSG Glassman LLC
1 International Place, 18th Floor
Boston MA 02110
The dedicated attorneys at this Boston law firm have won several victories for victims of mesothelioma in the construction trades. Through vigorous research, they were able to prove that the companies were aware of products that were laced with asbestos. They knew these materials were dangerous but they continued to use them without warning workers of the dangers.
- Occupational and Environmental Causes of Lung Cancer. (2012). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3875302/
- Comparative Risks of Cancer from Drywall Finishing Based Upon Stochastic Modeling of Cumulative Exposure to Respirable Dusts and Chrysotile Asbestos Fibers. (2015). Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/risa.12297
- Commonly Used OSHA Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.osha.gov/oshstats/commonstats.html