Construction Workers and
Current and former construction workers can be exposed to asbestos from building materials produced before 1989. Exposure can lead to serious illnesses, including cancer.
Asbestos was used in construction materials extensively from the 1940s to the 1980s, which means that current and former construction workers are at risk of developing asbestos-related illnesses.
Due to the risks associated with asbestos exposure, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned new asbestos-containing products in 1989. But by that time, millions of construction workers might have been exposed to asbestos fibers.
To make matters worse, the EPA did not require building owners to remove existing asbestos materials. As a result, construction workers who have worked on any building that was constructed before 1990, including renovation projects, have probably been exposed to asbestos fibers.
Learn more about construction worker asbestos exposure and how you can seek compensation for asbestos-related diseases.
Legally Reviewed By: Sam Taylor
Health Risks of Asbestos to Construction Workers
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral made of silicate crystals. The crystals include long crystalline fibers that can embed themselves into clothing, hair and skin.
If inhaled, asbestos crystals can attach to the lungs, the pleural lining of the chest and the peritoneal lining of the abdomen. Asbestos crystals do not break down in the body. Instead, they are embedded in the tissues, causing damage to the cells.
Over time, asbestos can cause two terrible diseases. First, when the fibers attach to your lung tissue, they can cause scarring. This scarring leads to a form of pulmonary fibrosis called asbestosis, where the small sacs in your lungs lose their elasticity and can no longer expand to fill with air. Asbestosis causes severe breathing problems.
Second, asbestos fibers can cause cell mutations, and cancerous tumors grow when mutated cells grow uncontrollably. These tumors can develop in your lungs, causing lung cancer, or your mesothelium, causing mesothelioma. If these cancers are not detected early, they can spread to other organs.
How long do you have to be exposed to asbestos for it to affect you?
There’s no specific level of asbestos exposure that consistently causes health problems. But doctors do usually agree that you need heavy and prolonged exposure to develop asbestosis, mesothelioma or lung cancer. The level of construction worker asbestos exposure that causes these diseases varies for each person.
However, doctors do know that construction workers do not develop these diseases until decades after asbestos exposure. If you develop cancer and doctors catch it early enough, they might be able to treat it.
But doctors cannot remove asbestos from your body, and your disease may reappear. And in most cases, asbestos-related diseases have reached advanced stages by the time they are detected, by which time they are untreatable.
These incurable diseases usually require care for the rest of your life. Contact The Lanier Law Firm for a free consultation to discuss your injuries and the compensation you deserve.
Occupational Asbestos Exposure for
Asbestos was used as an insulator and fire retardant until the 1990s. The products most likely to cause construction worker asbestos exposure include asbestos building products and asbestos-lined safety clothing.
Asbestos Building Products and Manufacturers
Asbestos resists heat and fire and was commonly used for insulation. Therefore, construction workers could encounter asbestos embedded in many structural products, like wallboard, fireplace liners and roof coatings.
When initially used, asbestos was mixed into the building material or sprayed on its surface. But over time, these materials become brittle and crumble, which releases asbestos dust.
Buildings built before 1990 often have asbestos-lined walls, floors and ceilings, so asbestos exposure usually happens during renovation projects.
When working on these structures, it’s difficult to avoid inhaling asbestos dust. This is particularly dangerous since old buildings often have poor ventilation and workers could conceivably inhale asbestos dust stirred up in other parts of a project.
Asbestos was used in many building materials, including:
Adhesives, sealants and construction tapes
Pipe wrap and coatings
Many companies made asbestos products, ranging from paint to concrete panels. Some manufacturers that made asbestos building products include:
Demolition work can release asbestos fibers into the air. Demolition workers without respirators frequently inhale these fibers. Air currents can also carry asbestos fibers to other areas near the demolition site. This can expose nearby workers who did not directly encounter asbestos products.
Construction worker asbestos exposure can also happen through direct contact with products containing asbestos. Many older construction workers who worked before the asbestos ban might have used asbestos-containing wallboards, roof liners or other materials.
Builders still use asbestos building materials in India, China, Brazil and many other countries, so construction workers who have worked outside the United States might have been exposed to asbestos through these materials.
Asbestos Exposure and Related Trades
Plumbers face asbestos exposure because this dangerous material was used to insulate pipes and boilers. Electricians can be exposed to asbestos used in wall insulation and wire coatings. And even though the EPA banned using asbestos in new products, welders expose themselves to asbestos every time they use old welding gloves and aprons.
Building companies can reduce the risk of construction worker asbestos exposure by providing:
However, most workers take these precautions only if they know about asbestos on a job site. If a project manager failed to warn you about asbestos, you might have a claim for negligence.
Mesothelioma Risk for Construction Workers
Asbestos exposure does not automatically cause mesothelioma. Doctors diagnose 3,000 new cases of this rare cancer each year in the United States. Your exact risk depends on the level and duration of your exposure to asbestos.
Mesothelioma tumors usually do not cause symptoms. In most cases, patients find out they have mesothelioma after the cancer has spread too far for treatment.
Asbestosis and lung cancer can also result from asbestos exposure. Your risk of developing asbestosis or lung cancer is much higher than your risk of mesothelioma. Unlike mesothelioma and lung cancer, asbestosis is not fatal, but it can cause debilitating respiratory problems that may eventually kill you.
Compensation Available for Construction Worker
Under product liability law, you can file a lawsuit against the product manufacturers that exposed you to asbestos. Since many of these companies have gone out of business due to asbestos claims, you can seek compensation through trust funds they’ve established.
You and your asbestos attorney must file your claim before your state’s statute of limitations expires. The claim must provide evidence that you were exposed to the company’s asbestos products and that exposure led to your disease.
The Lanier Law Firm has handled many asbestos exposure cases since the firm was founded in 1990. To discuss the compensation you can seek for your asbestos-related disease, contact us today for a free case evaluation.
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