Painters’ chores include everything from priming and taping to caulking, removing old paint, and applying a new layer. While painting seems like a low-risk job, it can actually lead to serious illnesses. Even today, painters who fail to wear adequate protective gear can expose themselves to dangerous toxins that could cause serious health problems.
One of the most dangerous substances that painters can encounter is asbestos.
Professional Painters & Asbestos
Prior to the medical community recognizing the dangers of asbestos, it was used in a variety of paints because it was highly resistant to heat and corrosion. Painters often used asbestos in paints for ships, machinery, or commercial buildings.
Asbestos in paint doesn’t pose a danger when it goes undisturbed. However, when the paint starts breaking down and flaking, problems arise. The microscopic asbestos particles float into the air and are frequently inhaled or ingested by the painters working on the building.
Anytime painters remove or paint over a coat of paint that was mixed prior to 1978, they must wear full protective gear, which includes a respirator. Painters should also remove their clothing and have it professionally cleaned following work so none of the asbestos fibers are carried from the worksite to their home.
Professionals painters who mixed paints prior to 1978 likely inhaled large quantities of the asbestos fibers while working. It’s in their best interest to contact their doctor and set up a screening for asbestos-related illnesses such as mesothelioma and asbestosis. The latency period for these illness ranges from 20 to 50 years, and the diseases often go undetected until they’ve reached advanced stages.
Two types of fatal diseases, mesothelioma and asbestosis, can only be developed after the inhalation of asbestos particles. Asbestosis is a disease that’s caused by scar tissue building up in the lungs until it’s difficult for the painter to breathe. Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that forms in the lining of the heart, lungs, or stomach. In addition to the fatal diseases, non-fatal illnesses such as pleural effusion, pleural thickening, and pleural plaques have been linked to asbestos fibers.
All asbestos-related diseases have a long latency period which is why new cases are diagnosed each day, even though it’s been nearly 40 years since painters used asbestos-based paints on a regular basis.
Early detection and intervention are key to survival. If you worked as a painter prior to 1980 or you know you’ve been exposed to asbestos on the job, talk to your doctor about routine health screenings to monitor for symptoms of asbestos-related diseases. Mesothelioma and asbestosis are commonly misdiagnosed in the early stages, but with knowledge of your work history, your doctor will be better able to diagnose you.
You may also want to consult with an asbestos attorney to learn about your legal options. Each year, there are a number of lawsuits related to asbestos exposure and you might be entitled to compensation, which can help cover asbestos-related medical costs.