Asbestos in Construction

Asbestos products were used very widely in the construction of essentially all types of buildings erected in the United States before the 1980s, when stricter asbestos limits were finally implemented after decades of evidence proved asbestos exposure is harmful to human health. Thousands of construction products were manufactured with high levels of asbestos. With its excellent heat-resistant and friction-resistant properties, asbestos was considered a “miracle material” that was easy to use, manipulate, and install in a wide variety of forms.

Construction Workers at Risk of Asbestos Exposure

In regards to dangerous levels of exposure to asbestos, construction workers are at the greatest risk. Over 1.3 million construction workers are exposed to asbestos on the job each year. The families of asbestos construction workers can also be at risk for the adverse health consequences associated with asbestos if the worker carries any fibers on his person. Because the risk of dangerous exposure is particularly high for asbestos construction workers, the government has created a body of regulations intended to protect asbestos construction workers from harmful health risks associated with the materials involved in asbestos construction.

Exposure to asbestos can occur when repairs, demolition, alteration or maintenance of a structure containing asbestos construction materials is performed. Houses that were built before the year 1980 are more likely to have dangerous materials in them.

Asbestos Construction Materials

Listed below are some of the more common construction materials that contain asbestos:

Ceilings

Exteriors

  • Asbestos cement roof panels
  • Siding panels
  • Soffits
  • Brick and block mortar
  • Building overhangs (thermal spray)
  • Loose fill insulation in exterior wall cavities (vermiculite)
  • Roofing felts and mastics
  • Stucco

Flooring

Pipes

  • Chilled water lines
  • Domestic water supply and drain lines
  • Gaskets in flanged pipe joints
  • Rain water and sanitary lines
  • Steam and hot water heating supply and return lines

Walls

  • Asbestos cement panels
  • Plaster or drywall jointing materials
  • Stippled finishes
  • Thermal spray

Miscellaneous

  • Duct tape
  • Fireproofing spray on decks, joints beams, columns and other structural members
  • Heating cabinet panels (asbestos cement)
  • Incandescent light fixture backing
  • Incinerators (internal insulation)
  • Theater curtains
  • Wire insulation

Attempts to Regulate Asbestos Exposure

When asbestos construction work is done, there are a number of regulations that an employer must abide by to ensure that workers are not exposed to hazardous levels of asbestos. Most asbestos construction worksites must be monitored daily for levels of asbestos in the work environment.

Regulated areas are controlled zones that protect asbestos construction workers by mandating that all safety precautions are followed (i.e. the use of protective respiratory and clothing equipment). Employers must also provide decontamination areas for asbestos construction workers. In asbestos construction where an employee is exposed to greater amounts of asbestos, employers are required to provide routine medical examinations for workers.

Exposure Can Lead to Mesothelioma Cancer

Asbestos is only harmful when its fibers become airborne and are inhaled or ingested. If an asbestos construction worker is exposed to more than 0.1 fibers per cubic centimeter during an eight hour day or 1 fiber per cubic centimeter in a thirty minute period, they run the risk of developing asbestosis, mesothelioma, or other related cancers. Asbestosis is non-cancerous, but it is a progressive disease where scar tissue builds up in the lungs which can lead to disability or death. Mesothelioma is a deadly cancer that affects the tissues surrounding internal organs, particularly the lungs and the organs of the abdominal cavity. Asbestos construction workers may develop these problems but not present any symptoms for up to forty years.

Exposure to asbestos can trigger some of the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Chronic cough
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss
  • Fluid build up (around affected areas of body)

As an asbestos construction worker it is important to be protected against the harmful effects of asbestos exposure. If regulations are not obeyed in an asbestos construction worksite, workers can be seriously injured as a result of their employer's negligence. If you have been injured as a result of asbestos construction work, you have the legal right to seek compensation for your injuries. To learn more about asbestos construction, please Contact an Asbestos Attorney familiar with mesothelioma injury and asbestos law.

Related Asbestos Construction News

Aug 15, 2008 - Asbestos Found in Helena-Area Homes

July 3, 2008 - Olympic Stadium Work Halted due to Asbestos

May 6, 2008 - Asbestos Concerns in Sausalito 

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