Asbestos was used in many types of commercial and residential construction projects before the 1980s. Carpenters frequently handled asbestos-containing products and were exposed to airborne asbestos fibers in dusty construction environments. Carpenters who were exposed to asbestos are at a high risk of developing asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma.

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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.

Although the main role of carpenters is working with wood frame and finish products, they handle practically every product involved in building construction. They’re present during every construction stage and exposed to the hundreds of materials used in building assembly.

Even if carpenters didn’t work directly with a particular material, they worked adjacent to others installing materials on various construction projects. Many of these construction materials contained asbestos.

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Carpenters and Asbestos Exposure

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.

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Dangers of Asbestos Were Concealed

Asbestos became a common construction material in the 1930s. 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.

Asbestos Products Used in Carpentry

Wood frames and finishes were standard materials in all construction classifications for several hundred years. Steel studs and concrete components gradually replaced wood in industrial and commercial sites, but wood is still the backbone of homebuilding.

During the 20th century evolution, carpenters changed roles to handle many asbestos products, not just wooden ones.

Carpenters were commonly exposed to these asbestos-containing products: 

  • Adhesives, glues, and bonding agents
  • Cement powder and masonry dust
  • Cabinet liners and particle board components
  • Insulation used in walls, ceilings, and floors
  • Fireproofing materials in brick fireplaces
  • Flooring underlayment
  • Roofing shingles and felts
  • Plumbing pipe wraps
  • Wallboard products, drywall, joint compound, and tape

Carpenters Careers

Carpenters are trade qualified or ticketed professionals specializing in construction areas where wood is used.

Skilled carpenters have years of experience. Typically, carpenters start as construction laborers and progress through apprentice stages before becoming journeymen.

Carpenters are often employed in these roles and careers:

  • Framers who cut and install wood beams, joists, studs, rafters, and sheathing
  • Finishers who make and install doors, windows, moldings, and trim pieces
  • Formers who build concrete forms for foundations
  • Floorlayers who install hardwood floors and other flooring materials
  • Specialty carpenters who build cabinets and manufacture fine finishings
  • Heavy construction carpenters who build bridges and towers
  • General carpenters who carry out other tasks like insulating and roofing

Carpenter careers often cross different construction boundaries. During a carpenter’s career, they may work on thousands of projects ranging from quick and simple jobs to long and complex ones.

There are three primary industry classifications employing carpenters:

  • Industrial Construction: Factories and other manufacturing plants
  • Commercial Construction: Schools and office buildings
  • Residential Construction: Houses and multi-family projects

Carpenters may have been exposed to asbestos in any one of these careers or industry classifications. Asbestos was widely used in all kinds of industrial, commercial and residential applications.

Carpenter Health Risks

Every carpenter exposed to asbestos dust is at serious risk of developing mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer only caused by inhaling tiny airborne asbestos fibers that become lodged in the linings of major organs, like the lungs, abdomen, heart, or testicles.

Embedded asbestos fibers can remain dormant for decades before triggering the formation of cancer cells and tumor growth.

Asbestos can also enter the body by being ingested into the digestive system, causing peritoneal mesothelioma that affects the abdominal cavity.

Carpenters and Risk of Asbestos Exposure
A carpenter’s degree of risk depends on the type of asbestos they were exposed to, the amount of dust inhaled or ingested, and the duration of exposure.

Carpenters were normally exposed to two types of asbestos. Chrysotile, or white asbestos, was the most common. Chrysotile is dangerous but less risky than amphibole asbestos, which is highly hazardous.

Help for Mesothelioma Victims

Carpenters who developed mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases may be entitled to financial compensation.

This compensation may include:

  • Payments for personal injury
  • Compensation for medical expenses
  • Money to make up lost income
  • Punitive damages to punish negligent manufacturers of asbestos-containing products

Families have also successfully sued companies on behalf of victimized relatives through personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits.

The Mesothelioma Cancer Network has legal resources available to carpenters. Get a free case review today.

Mesothelioma Support Team
Stephanie KiddWritten by:


Stephanie Kidd grew up in a family of civil servants, blue-collar workers, and medical caregivers. Upon graduating Summa Cum Laude from Stetson University, she began her career specializing in worker safety regulations and communications. Now, a proud member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) and Editor-in-Chief of the Mesothelioma Cancer Network, Stephanie serves as a voice for mesothelioma victims and their families.

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