Asbestos Fiber Exposure from Bricks and Mortar
Brick and mortar asbestos content varied according to their purpose and installation. Firebricks and their mortar contained up to 80 percent asbestos.
Fireboxes, flues, and chimneys were able to stand prolonged periods of direct flame contact because the asbestos additives didn’t burn or distort no matter how hot they got.
Ordinary clay and concrete bricks couldn’t handle this. Neither could regular Portland cement-based mortar mixes.
Did You Know?
For nearly a century, hundreds of thousands suffered exposure in environments where airborne asbestos fibers floated in clouds about their workplace.
Every worker involved in the brick industry risked severe health problems when working with asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) like bricks.
These people were handling brick and mortar products with ACMs:
- Miners who extracted and processed asbestos for the brick industry.
- Workers manufacturing bricks in kilns and concrete plants.
- Journeymen bricklayers and block masons who cut, fit and mortared bricks on construction sites.
- Apprentices mixing mortar and adding raw asbestos into powders.
- Other tradespersons working around brick sawing and mortar mixing dust.
Fieldcraft persons had the highest asbestos exposure risk because they always disturbed asbestos particles while installing bricks. But other workers in the process experienced airborne asbestos from secondary sources.
Many brick factories had brick wall construction and hot water boilers wrapped in asbestos linings heated them. As well, asbestos wallboard, tiles, and roofing products abounded.
Asbestos dust also came home to cross-contaminate workers’ families. Bricklayers, their tools, and vehicles were covered by asbestos brick dust by day’s end. They returned home with asbestos particles on their clothes and in their hair.
Other construction workers also became exposed to asbestos in bricklaying projects. It was impossible to escape workplace asbestos dust from different materials which put bricklayers, themselves, at risk for cross-contamination.