Construction Workers

Historically, anyone involved in the construction industry had a high risk of exposure to hazardous asbestos. Asbestos was used in countless building products and construction applications. Construction workers were likely exposed to asbestos whether or not they worked directly with raw asbestos or asbestos-containing products.

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Construction Workers and Asbestos Exposure

Skilled tradespeople and their labor force built every facility and support system across America. Ordinary construction workers utilized a broad range of materials on the job. For over seven decades, many of these building materials contained a lethal substance called asbestos.

Asbestos was a staple ingredient in hundreds of building products from the 1920s to the 1980s. This was before the extreme hazards of asbestos became widely known, and conclusive proof revealed that long-term asbestos exposure was the sole cause of mesothelioma.

Virtually every home, office building, and factory in America once contained asbestos. Many of them still do. However, most asbestos-based products were phased out in the late 20th century.

How Construction Workers Were Exposed to Asbestos

Construction workers cut, drilled, sanded, and shaped several asbestos-based building products before installing them in their final state. Once installed, most materials containing asbestos were stable and safe.

However, handling asbestos causes tiny fibers to detach and become airborne.

Construction workers were constantly exposed to raw asbestos and dust from asbestos workings.

Construction workers also cross-contaminated people and places outside of their workspace. Asbestos from construction sites settled on workers’ clothes, tools, and vehicles. As a result, families were exposed to asbestos while doing laundry or traveling in contaminated cars.

Even office personnel were at risk of secondhand asbestos exposure when construction workers wearing contaminated clothing dropped by for business.

Some construction workers were consistently exposed to a working environment with high concentrations of airborne asbestos. Whether or not workers were personally installing asbestos materials didn’t matter.

Anyone working with asbestos on a job site could expose construction personnel to the hazardous fibers. This exposure rate was particularly severe on renovation and demolition jobs.

Asbestos Products Used in Construction Work

Asbestos was thought to be the perfect construction material. It was frequently added to other products to make them lighter, stronger, fireproof, and thermally stable. Asbestos was also plentiful, easy to work with, and inexpensive to purchase.

Construction workers used several asbestos-containing building materials, including:

  • Cabinet materials like paper liners and pressboard
  • Cement powder and masonry products
  • Door cores and facings
  • Drywall board, joint tape, and finishing compound
  • Exterior siding products
  • Floor tiles and underlayment
  • Paints, glues, and sealants
  • Rolled insulation in wall, floors, and ceilings
  • Roofing felt and shingles
  • Welding rods and protective gear
  • Wrappings around hot water pipes and furnace boilers

Construction Worker Careers

Every society in history relied on construction workers to build houses, public structures, and utility connections. Construction workers perform a wide variety of tasks which range from preparing new construction sites to demolishing buildings.

There are three broad construction worker classifications:

  • Residential and Commercial: Construction of homes and office buildings.
  • Industrial: Construction of factories and large complexes.
  • Civil and Heavy: Construction of roads, airports, and railway transportation systems.

Most construction workers fall into three additional groups:

  • Professionals: The engineers who plan, design, and approve projects.
  • Experienced Construction Workers: Tradespeople holding journeyman qualifications.
  • Unskilled Laborers: Typically assistants or apprentices in training.

Professional construction workers fall under a variety of specialties, working as structural, civil, mechanical, or electrical engineers. Skilled workers include carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and masons. Semi-skilled construction workers often perform insulation, roofing, drywall, and painting jobs.

No matter what role or responsibility construction workers had, every one of them was likely exposed to asbestos during the early and mid-20th century.

Construction Worker Health Risks

Construction workers were in the highest risk group for asbestos exposure, making them most likely to develop mesothelioma in later years. Mesothelioma is a deadly form of cancer caused only by asbestos exposure.

Construction workers frequently inhaled microscopic asbestos fibers, which became embedded in the lining of their lungs, abdomen or heart, eventually causing mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma Development Time

It takes 20 to 50 years for a construction worker — or anyone exposed to asbestos — to develop mesothelioma.

Construction workers exposed to asbestos decades ago are still at risk of developing mesothelioma today. While there is no safe level of asbestos exposure, the risk of mesothelioma increases with the duration of exposure and the amount of asbestos inhaled or ingested.

Construction workers were repeatedly exposed to heavy levels of asbestos over several years.

Help for Mesothelioma Victims

If you are a construction worker who developed mesothelioma from workplace asbestos exposure, you may be eligible for compensation. This compensation can cover your medical expenses, lost wages, and associated damages.

Families of mesothelioma victims can apply for compensation on their behalf. They can also file wrongful death lawsuits.

If you want to learn about more support options available to mesothelioma victims, our Justice Support Team is standing by. See the ways we can help you.

Author:Stephanie Kidd

Editor-in-Chief of the Mesothelioma Justice Network

Stephanie Kidd

Stephanie Kidd works tirelessly as a dedicated advocate for the vulnerable and underrepresented. Stephanie worked as a copywriter for an agency whose focus was communicating safety procedures on construction work sites. With her extensive background in victim advocacy and a dedication to seeing justice done, Stephanie works hard to ensure that all online content is reliable, truthful and helpful.

Last modified: September 5, 2019

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