Asbestos and Construction Workers
The construction industry is one of the most hazardous industries in the United States, and construction workers are among the highest at-risk individuals for asbestos exposure due to their constant contact with construction materials, some of which are likely to include asbestos. It is estimated that more than 1 million construction workers are exposed every year to materials that contain asbestos.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring soft, grey, fibrous, silicate material that was a popular building material from the 1950s to 1990s, and was widely used because it is an insulator, has good fire protection properties, and is resistant to chemical erosion.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to know if you are working with asbestos because it is often mixed with other materials, and is commonly found as fire protection on structural supports, walls and ceilings; mechanical insulation on boilers, vessels, tanks, and pipes; linoleum and floor tiles; and textured decorative coating in older buildings. Since asbestos is not banned in the United States, asbestos-containing construction materials are still used in new construction. The danger of asbestos exposure increases as buildings age because asbestos in construction materials disintegrates easily and the fibers have an increased propensity to become airborne.
Although asbestos is a natural fiber it can cause serious health risks when inhaled or swallowed, and is generally not considered harmful unless it is inhaled or swallowed. Asbestos fibers trapped in the body begin to cause pain, swelling and particularly pulmonary problems. Since the body cannot break down the fibers or remove them once they are lodged in the lung or body tissues, they remain in place where they can cause disease.
There are three primary diseases related to asbestos exposure: Lung Cancer, Asbestosis and Mesothelioma. Lung cancer, the leading cause of death related to asbestos exposure, affects those individuals who are directly involved in the manufacturing and construction industries. The most common symptoms of lung cancer are coughing, shortness of breath, constant chest pains, hoarseness, and anemia. Asbestosis, a severe, long-term, non-cancerous respiratory disease is caused by inhaling asbestos fibers that inflame and scar lung tissues. Symptoms of asbestosis can include shortness of breath and a dry crackling sound in the lungs while inhaling, and can eventually cause cardiac failure. Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer of the mesothelial cells that cover the outer surface of most of the body’s organs. Out of the approximately 2000-3000 cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year, nearly all cases of Mesothelioma are associated with asbestos.
Many companies knew the dangers of construction workers being exposed to asbestos, but put profits ahead of people. An estimated $30 billion in court-ordered trust money has been set aside for victims and the families of victims who have been exposed to certain asbestos-containing products. If you or your loved one has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness, you may be entitled to compensation.