They also require building materials that are safe and without health hazards. Not like the days when home construction products contained asbestos.
Asbestos was once considered a safe, durable and cost-effective building product. It seemed the ideal construction material. Asbestos had excellent thermal transfer properties making it a superior insulation material. It was fire resistant, non-corrosive and didn’t conduct electricity. And asbestos was lightweight, readily available and cheap to buy. It seemed there was no fault with asbestos.
From the 1920’s to the mid-1980s, American homebuilders installed tons of asbestos-containing materials (ACM) in millions of single and multi-family residences. Home construction flourished through various boom cycles, and asbestos demand soared. This request was exceptionally high in the post-World War II period of the 50s and 60s. Asbestos showed up in practically every American-made building material.
This monstrous appetite for asbestos materials came back to haunt the home construction industry. The dangers of long-term asbestos exposure became known back in the 1930s, but warnings went unheeded. Much of this blame rests on unscrupulous ACM producers and distributors who placed profits before people.
By the 80s, the cat was out of the asbestos bag. Thanks to regulatory efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), red flags were waved at home constructors installing asbestos materials. Asbestos use stopped or became severely curtailed. Unfortunately for millions of home builders and owners, America’s twentieth-century houses were asbestos death traps.
Asbestos Materials Installed in American Homes
Asbestos-containing materials found their way into nearly every square foot of American homes. In a 3-dimensional picture, asbestos-lined the floors, walls and ceilings. Asbestos was inside building products and placed on their outsides. Contractors and subcontractors worked side-by-side to fit U.S. homes with asbestos.
These are the most common home building products that contained ACMs:
- Drywall board, joint compound, and tape.
- Rigid, batt and blow-in insulation.
- Cement powder additives.
- Roofing shingles and roof felt.
- Floor tiles and underlayment.
- Pipe wrap and furnace duct covers.
- Furnace and air-conditioner filters.
- Paint, glue, adhesives, and wallpaper.
- Window putty, caulking, and glazing.
- Light fixture backings.
- Electrical wiring and panel insulation.
- Cement-fiber siding.
- Gutters and downspouts.
- Fireplace bricks, hearths, and mantles.
Many home construction professionals worked directly with ACMs. The vast majority had no idea how dangerous long-term exposure to large quantities of asbestos would be. Workers who didn’t handle asbestos products in their craft were inadvertently exposed to airborne asbestos particles from others using asbestos in their vicinity.
Home construction workers working with ACMs were:
- Drywall board hangers and tapers.
- Roofing and siding applicators.
- Frame and finishing carpenters.
- Cabinet installers.
- Painters and decorators.
- Plumbers, electricians and gasfitters.
- Cement workers, masons and bricklayers.
- Insulators, floor layers and tile setters.
- Renovators and demolition contractors.
Home Construction Workers and Asbestos Exposure
Mesothelioma Justice Network Brief
Once asbestos materials were installed and left alone, they were stable and safe. The danger of asbestos exposure occurred during the installation process. Any form of handling asbestos products caused tiny particles to dislodge and become airborne. The particles became airborne while workers were cutting, drilling, sanding, scraping and fitting ACMs.
Asbestos fibers are lightweight and nearly invisible. Home construction tasks released clouds of airborne asbestos fibers, and this went on for years while unprotected tradespeople went about their work in houses under construction. Asbestos exposure was unavoidable in the homebuilding industry.
When home construction workers inhaled asbestos fibers, these sharp shards pierced their lung lining or mesothelium. Once embedded in a worker’s mesothelium, asbestos fibers are impossible to dislodge. They remain in the lung lining forever. Scar tissue formed around irritated locations and eventually caused the deadly lung cancer called mesothelioma.
The risk of developing mesothelioma depended on the amount of asbestos a construction worker inhaled and the duration they were exposed. It takes quite some time for mesothelioma symptoms to occur. Sadly, many home construction workers didn’t realize they were mesothelioma victims. But of some condolence, victims are now eligible for mesothelioma compensation.
Compensation for Home Construction Workers with Mesothelioma
Home construction workers who developed mesothelioma from workplace asbestos exposure can apply for compensation. Funds are available to pay for medical expenses, income loss and personal injury damages. Families can fill out the application on behalf of members with mesothelioma. They can also file lawsuits in wrongful death cases.