Construction workers and electricians at high risk of asbestos exposure.

Statistics show it is particularly prevalent amongst construction workers and electricians due to their constant contact with construction materials and dust, some of which is likely to include asbestos, no matter how careful they are.

Asbestos, although a natural fiber, when swallowed or inhaled, can cause grave health risks as fibers trapped in the body begin to cause irritation, tumors and especially pulmonary problems. Unfortunately, it was a commonly used construction material in the early half of the 20th century, preferred for its low cost, ease of manufacture, as well as its fire and water resistant properties.

Modern construction no longer uses asbestos due to improvements in synthetic materials and cements and more awareness of the dangers it poses.

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer specific to asbestos exposure. There are no cases of Mesothelioma not associated with Asbestos. It normally occurs in the linings of the lungs (pleural mesothelioma) and abdomen (peritoneal Mesothelioma), but the cancer can occur in the lining of many internal organs. Sadly, Mesothelioma is incurable because it is typically diagnosed late, and, according to the Mayo Clinic, treatment has to be focused on keeping the patient as comfortable as possible.

Mesothelioma can take years to develop, so that a worker who was exposed to asbestos many years ago, may develop it long after retirement. It can take 20 to 40 years to develop, however once diagnosed it is characteristically very aggressive.

Exposure to asbestos may also cause regular lung cancer. Asbestos related lung cancer occurs in the lungs themselves and may result in tumors that reduce pulmonary function and begin to block airways.

Asbestosis, which only occurs from exposure to asbestos, is not a form of cancer, but rather the buildup of scar tissue in the lungs caused by the irritation and damage from the fibres. Occupations at Risk of Exposure Until the 1980s, asbestos was regularly used in construction and other industrial applications. Awareness of problems with asbestos combined with lawsuits against employers and manufacturers put an end to its use.

Asbestos is naturally heat resistant and can provide a useful fireproof layer in products, ranging from flooring and walling to vehicle brakes and insulation, thus many workers were literally in contact with asbestos on an almost daily basis, which is known as "occupational exposure". They are clearly at a much greater risk of developing lung cancer, mesothelioma or asbestosis.

The areas of industry include :

  • Auto mechanics
  • Brick and stone masons
  • Construction workers
  • Electricians
  • Firefighters
  • HVAC workers/Boiler Mechanics
  • Insulation Installers
  • Plumbers
  • Railroad workers
  • Roofers
  • Welders

Construction Worker Exposure In construction asbestos was used in many products, including, but not limited to :

  • Boilers
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Drywall
  • Fireproofing materials
  • Flooring
  • Insulation
  • Roof panels

Workers would often cut the asbestos material to fir the installation. Asbestos is most commonly known as a grey fibrous board, similar to compressed cement board. The problem of exposure continues, even though new projects are not using the material any longer, any renovations of pre 1990s buildings can come across large usage of asbestos, the removal of which poses a genuine hazard. Even the World Trade Center Towers, relatively modern buildings, were riddled with asbestos - there are real concerns for firemen and contractors involved with cleaning up the site. Electrical Worker Exposure Electricians have a dual set of risks, not only in dealing with standard construction materials that they need to cut through or install, but also electrical products themselves which used asbestos. They risk exposure to asbestos almost daily.

When drilling conduits for wiring, electricians often encounter asbestos products in the walling. The drilling itself being one of the worst exposures, producing large amounts of dust that many not be immediately identifiable as asbestos.

Some electrical products that include asbestos are :

  • Ceiling tiles
  • Cement siding
  • Circuit Breakers
  • Insulation
  • Switchgears
  • Thermal paper
  • Wall plaster

Older equipment in buildings that electricians may be working on or around, including turbines, generators, heating units, hot water tanks etc. may also have asbestos in their installations. Whilst not being in the most immediately obvious industry for asbestos exposure, electrical workers are besieged from all sides by asbestos risk. Secondary Exposure to Asbestos Asbestos is a very small fiber that is transmitted in dust and can easily attach to clothing, shoes, hair, skin, collect in work vehicles and be taken back to the home. Thus many family members of workers who were exposed on the job may have been exposed to harmful amounts of asbestos, via transmission of the particles from the work site to the home.

Because of the latency period of developing mesothelioma or other lung diseases caused by asbestos, many workers are still discovering that they have, or are developing, complications due to asbestos exposure.

If you or a family member work, or previously worked, in a job that brought exposure to asbestos, contact a personal injury attorney experienced in handling asbestos related claims.