Laborers work in a variety of places, helping with many different jobs. Over the years, many construction projects relied heavily on day laborers for timely completion. Laborers were considered multi-purposed worker during the post-war growth in the 1920s. They routinely worked on constructing roads and bridges in busy cities. They were bricklayers, carpenters, plumbers, and electricians. Laborers even became assistants for welders, drywall installers, and equipment operators. The blue collar laborer became a cornerstone of the growing American landscape and by the time the 20th Century came to a close, there were well over six million laborers at work in the United States, building over 1.5 million new homes and 300,000 commercial spaces.
The Risk for Asbestos Exposure
Laborers face a lot of work-related hazards, but perhaps the most dangerous is exposure to asbestos. Research shows that construction work is the most dangerous vocation, with 17 percent of injuries from toxic exposure. An estimated 10,000 construction laborers are expected to die every single year for the next decade from asbestos diseases like asbestosis and mesothelioma. Even with improved protective measures and education about asbestos risks, approximately 1.3 million construction laborers are newly exposed to asbestos every year.
Most buildings that were constructed prior to 1980 have some form of asbestos products. It is frequently found in floor tiles, ceiling finishes, insulation, shingles, pipes, furnaces, and in fireproofing materials around electric work. While asbestos has largely been banned in new construction projects, it can still be found in lower concentrations in packing materials, gaskets, and roof paneling. Anytime laborers do remodeling work on older homes, the risk for asbestos exposure is high.
Laborers who work with highway crews also face a high risk for exposure. Older roads are often made with asbestos cement. Piping that runs below roadways can also contain asbestos insulation. For road crews that are repeatedly exposed to old asbestos, the threat is serious. Studies have shown that frequent asbestos exposure can lead to higher incidences of asbestos cancers or diseases later in life.
Secondhand Exposure to Asbestos
Laborers can also put their family at grave risk through secondhand asbestos exposure. Anytime you are exposed to tiny particles of asbestos dust, it can remain on your clothing, shoes, or even in your hair. When you go home to your family, you take these toxins with you. There have been several documented cases where the children of laborers developed mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases from this secondhand exposure. It’s critically important that all laborers take precautions by wearing protective gear anytime they work on job sites where asbestos exposure is a possibility.
Lawsuits for Asbestos Exposure
A number of laborers have filed lawsuits against employers, manufacturers, and insurance companies after contracting asbestos-related illnesses. In fact, many asbestos material manufacturers now have large trust funds set up to use for victim compensation as more and more laborers come forward to pursue legal action. If you believe you’ve been exposed to asbestos as a laborer, talk to an asbestos attorney to learn more about your options for seeking compensation.