Carpenters and Asbestos Exposure
Carpenters are usually the first in and last out on every construction project. Because carpenters are versatile constructors, they remain at the construction site from the foundation through to the finish. They’re present during every construction stage and exposed to the hundreds of materials used in building assembly.
Although the main role of carpenters is working with wood frame and finish products, they handle practically every product involved in building construction.
Even if carpenters didn’t work directly with a particular material, they worked adjacent to others installing these materials on industrial, commercial, and residential construction projects. Many of these construction materials contained asbestos.
Carpenters are in the highest asbestos exposure risk group of all construction tradespeople. Many carpenters experienced continual and prolonged exposure to large quantities of asbestos dust.
How Carpenters Were Exposed to Asbestos
Continuous cutting, sawing, and sanding activities create dusty environments on construction sites. Carpenters constantly inhale and ingest large quantities of dust.
In the 20th century, materials containing asbestos were disturbed during installation and building demolition. This released microscopic asbestos fibers into the air surrounding a carpenter’s workspace.
Construction carpenters involved in the installation weren’t the only woodworkers exposed to asbestos. Many carpenters were employed in renovation and demolition projects where asbestos materials were ripped out and destroyed. This was just as hazardous as installing new asbestos products.
Asbestos contamination didn’t stop at the job site. Many carpenters came home covered in asbestos dust. This polluted their homes and put their families at risk of asbestos exposure, including their wives who did their laundry.
Many carpenters were unaware of the asbestos risk. Those who suspected dangers often only wore dust masks, which are not effective in preventing asbestos inhalation or ingestion. Proper respirators are the only defense against asbestos fibers and dust.
Dangers of Asbestos Were Concealed
Asbestos became a common construction material in the 1920s. It was widely used until the 1980s when the dangers of asbestos exposure became well-known.
However, it wasn’t a sudden discovery breakthrough that changed how the construction industry used asbestos-containing products. Many asbestos product suppliers were well aware of the dangers but chose to hide it.