In the construction and building renovation industry, roofers are among those who risk exposure to asbestos in the course of doing their jobs. Asbestos exposure can cause disabling or fatal diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer, gastrointestinal cancer and mesothelioma, a form of asbestos cancer.
In addition to working on roofs, some roofers use their waterproofing expertise to work on masonry and concrete walls and floors, including foundations. To prepare surfaces for waterproofing, they may hammer and chisel away rough spots, before applying a coat of liquid waterproofing compound. If the concrete contained asbestos, this can release asbestos dust. Roofers also install equipment such as ventilation ducts and attic fans, which requires cutting through roofs, another activity that can disturb asbestos fibers.
Historically, asbestos was most often used in construction, and nearly 70% of asbestos produced now is used in construction. The risk to anyone working in construction can be high if the hazard is not recognized and if occupational health and safety standards are not enforced. Even today, roofers who remove older roofs still face the possibility of their work disturbing asbestos fibers. They may also be exposed to asbestos dust created by the activities of other people at the job site especially if proper safety precautions aren’t taken with other asbestos-containing materials.
Diseases associated with asbestos exposure generally do not appear for 20 or more years after initial exposure, so even people who haven’t worked as a roofer in many years may still be at risk for developing mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease.