Iron Workers and Asbestos Exposure
Before asbestos was phased out in the 1980s, iron workers faced exposure at work. Asbestos was a popular construction material for its lightweight, fire-resistant, and durable qualities, and many products contained the toxic substance.
Metal workers may have been exposed to asbestos from the following products:
- Adhesives and glues
- Cement products
- Electrical wiring
- Elevator brakes and equipment
- Fire doors
- Fireproofing spray and coating
- Flooring and roofing materials
Iron workers’ protective gloves and clothing designed to keep them safe from high temperatures contained asbestos. When workers returned home at the end of the shift, their family may also have been exposed to the deadly fibers.
Sadly, few respiratory safety precautions existed for iron workers during the 20th century.
Most laborers worked without a proper mask. Fabrication shops often lacked adequate ventilation, trapping asbestos fibers in the workplace. Asbestos dust also entered the cabs of cranes and heavy equipment that iron workers operated.
Iron Workers and Asbestos Exposure Today
The risk of asbestos exposure to iron workers is much lower today. However, some level of threat remains. Workers specializing in reinforcement involved with renovating or demolishing old structures risk exposure when asbestos is disturbed and becomes airborne.
In a recent survey, 11% of iron workers felt that asbestos poses a threat on the job.