Working in the construction industry makes you far more likely to get hurt on the job. In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration considers construction workers to face some of the highest workplace hazards in the country. In 2012, the construction trade had the most fatal injuries of any industry. Over half of these deaths were due to falls, electrocution, and similar construction-related hazards. However, perhaps one of the most dangerous risks that workers encounter on a construction site is actually invisible: asbestos exposure.
Asbestos was a popular choice for a variety of construction materials over the past century. It is highly resistant to heat so it was often used for home insulation, floor and ceiling tiles, and even in plumbing gaskets or concrete pads. It wasn’t until the 1960s that scientists learned how dangerous asbestos is.
Breathing in microscopic particles of asbestos puts construction workers at serious risk for lung cancer and mesothelioma. To make matters worse, the effects of asbestos exposure often go unnoticed until decades later. That means that construction workers who were exposed thirty years ago may just now start developing symptoms. Too often, these individuals are unaware of the true cause of their illness, making an accurate diagnosis difficult and leading to improper care.
The American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine published a study estimating that 1.3 million construction workers are still at risk for asbestos exposure—even though the material has nearly been phased out from modern building materials. Workers still encounter asbestos during remodel work or demolition jobs and should take the appropriate safety precautions to reduce their risk of contact and inhalation.
Hidden Dangers on Construction Sites
Despite regulation, the EPA estimates that the majority of public and commercial buildings still have asbestos materials somewhere inside. The dangerous material could be hiding in floor tiles, roof shingles, insulation, and practically anywhere else in old buildings. Even drywall can harbor asbestos, as asbestos was commonly used in gypsum board, joint compounds, millboard, and plasters. Spray-on insulation can contain up to 10 percent asbestos ingredients. It can also be hidden in vermiculite, joint packing, felts, siding panels, cement, textured ceiling products and paints, and even duct tape.
Some companies that commonly used asbestos in building materials include:
- Johns Manville
- National Gypsum
- American Biltrite
- G.W. Berkheimer
Since we now know the dangers of asbestos, most companies have stopped using it in production, but it’s still not completely eliminated. Manufacturers are still legally able to use asbestos in products like pipe wrap, floor tiles, shingles, pipes, and roofing felt as long as they follow proper guidelines and workers wear the necessary protective gear.
The Mesothelioma Risk
If you are a construction worker and have encountered asbestos, you may face a higher risk for lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related diseases. It’s important to discuss your asbestos exposure with your doctor to assist with proper diagnosis. Too often, asbestos-related illnesses are not identified properly.
If you are already suffering from asbestos-related health problems, you should also consult with an attorney to determine what your legal options may be. There have been a number of successful lawsuits from construction workers who had serious health problems as a result of asbestos hazards. If you’ve been exposed to dangerous materials such as asbestos, you have options. Speak with a knowledgeable attorney today to learn more.