Civil Engineers

Civil engineers help build the world around us, but many have unknowingly endangered their lives in the process. Civil engineers who supervised jobs and visited construction sites before the late 1990s were often exposed to asbestos fibers through the dust in the air. This asbestos exposure can lead to serious health complications, including an aggressive form of cancer called mesothelioma.

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Civil Engineers and Asbestos Exposure

Engineering covers a wide range of professional occupations. Every engineering field involves research, design, and construction for end-use products. That can be everyday household materials or something exotic like interstellar space probes.

But one engineering field has the most common effect on our daily lives — civil engineers who make our civic infrastructures.

One thing many different engineers had in common is being exposed to asbestos from their project materials.

Did You Know?

Most civil engineers didn’t suffer from direct asbestos exposure since they didn’t usually handle contaminated products.

Rather, civil engineers inhaled and ingested asbestos fibers when they supervised workers and were present on jobs where asbestos dust filled the air.

How Civil Engineers Were Exposed to Asbestos

Most civil engineers spent much time around civic construction job sites. A great deal of civil engineering responsibility is making inspections and giving directions to field technicians.

Civil work projects produced large asbestos byproducts and discharges. Mixing concrete, as well as cutting and fitting asbestos-protected pipes, caused dry powder to become airborne.

Roadworks were extremely dusty in dry weather. Clouds of asbestos-contaminated dust were constantly present and exposed unprotected civil engineers to airborne asbestos fibers. Similar hazards occurred in bridge, tunnel, and runway projects.

Engineers even polluted their offices after returning from the field with particles stuck in their clothes and on their testing equipment.

Very few civil engineers were aware of the extreme health risks associated with asbestos exposure.

Did You Know?

Asbestos Dangers Were Covered Up

Many manufacturers and suppliers of asbestos-containing products intentionally concealed how dangerous asbestos was.

Eventually, this negligence caused many civil engineers and other asbestos-exposed workers to develop fatal health problems.

Many engineers spend hours in the field each day breathing in asbestos fibers that dislodged from their main products during cutting and fitting. Demolition works were equally hazardous.

Dust from concrete and asphalt removed from old infrastructure was deadly dangerous. But few civil engineers took protective precautions.

Asbestos Used in Civil Engineering

Civil engineers relied on asbestos products in many of their designs and applications. Asbestos became popular at the beginning of the 20th century when it proved to be an excellent heat insulator and fire retardant.

Did You Know?

Asbestos was cheap, plentiful and stable to work with. Unfortunately, few initially anticipated the horrible health risks that asbestos exposure presented.

Asbestos seemed like a wonder material for civil engineering work. It was specified as the primary material for reinforcing products that were prone to heat damage and fire potential. Asbestos also strengthened materials and lightened their weight.

Some asbestos products used by civil engineers included:

  • Concrete foundations where asbestos was added to cement powder
  • Asphalt road surfaces to strengthen and bind aggregates
  • Pipe and boiler insulation and fireproofing
  • Building materials like roofing, insulation, flooring, and wallboard
  • Adhesives used in civil joinery like pipe flanges and pressure fittings
  • Chemical products interacting with other building materials
  • Heating, ventilation, and air condition (HVAC) equipment used in civil works
  • Heavy equipment construction components like gaskets, brakes, and clutches.

From the early 1900s to the late 1980s, many materials specified in civil engineering projects contained large asbestos quantities.

Civil Engineer Careers

Civil engineers specialize in the engineering profession. They invest years of training in disciplines like mathematics, physics, chemistry, and even architecture.

Civil engineers acquire university degrees and special designations allowing them to design, oversee, and approve structures and systems that support citizens’ lives.

Some of the important roles civil engineers experience in their careers include:

  • Designing transportation systems like airports, railways, and highways
  • Constructing bridges, tunnels, and arterial connectors
  • Building dams, canals, and waterways
  • Designing and operating power generation systems
  • Specifying utility supply systems such as water and sewer pipes
  • Interfacing buildings and civic infrastructure
  • Coordinating other engineers like structural, chemical, and mechanical professionals

Each of these civil engineering paths requires complicated systems and a large range of building products.

Civil Engineer Health Risks

The deadliest disease associated with asbestos exposure is mesothelioma. The only cause of this incurable cancer is inhaling or ingesting asbestos fibers.

For civil engineers, their risk was at contaminated work sites. Airborne microscopic asbestos fibers attached to the lung lining (pleura) and were impossible to expel. It takes 20 to 50 years but eventually, mesothelioma tumors can develop.

Help for Mesothelioma Victims

If you’re a civil engineer who developed mesothelioma from workplace asbestos exposure, you may be eligible for legal compensation.

Mesothelioma victims can be awarded money to cover medical expenses, lost income, and personal injury. They’re also eligible to sue negligent asbestos product manufacturers and suppliers for damages.

Additionally, mesothelioma victims’ families may file lawsuits on behalf of relatives as well as sue for wrongful death cases.

Contact our Justice Support Team today to learn more about taking action.

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 Justice Network, Stephanie serves as a voice for mesothelioma victims and their families.

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