For construction workers, still a highly lethal threat
Among the many threats construction workers face on a daily basis, exposure to asbestos is perhaps the most unforgiving. Of the 1.3 million workers at risk for exposure on a daily basis, construction workers form the majority. Because their work consistently involves renovations, demolitions and the re-building of old structures (which often contain the highly lethal strand of asbestos, known as amphibole fibers), construction companies are required by law to comply with safeguards to protect construction workers from exposure to asbestos.
Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that has been used in various industries for construction and building purposes since the 19th century. Up until the 1970s, it was used regularly in building materials for insulation, pipefitting, boilermaking, shipbuilding and repair, utilities and power plants, chemical plants and refineries, carpentry and automotive repair.
In buildings built before 1980, the amphibole strand of asbestos was used regularly in vinyl floor tile, ceiling tile, adhesives, coatings, duct insulation for heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, roofing material, insulated electrical wire and panels.
Today, chrysotile asbestos is used in place of its lethal cousin, amphobile asbestos. Because chrysotile asbestos particles are heavier, they fall to the ground faster after they’ve been disturbed. This makes it less likely for humans near the exposure to come in contact or inhale the asbestos particles. Upon break up, amphobile asbestos particles are suspended in the air for long periods of time, increasing the likelihood of asbestos exposure.
Heavy exposure to and inhalation of amphibole fiber asbestos was proven to greatly increase the risk of asbestosis (a form of fibrosis), lung cancer and mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer linked directly to asbestos exposure. The latency period for these diseases can range from 20 to 40 years. Therefore, many people who worked in construction between 20 to 40 years ago are just now being diagnosed with diseases related to asbestos.
Of course that doesn’t mean that contracting an illness from asbestos today isn’t possible. In fact, a majority of buildings in the United States were built before 1980. With the push for renovation and urban renewal continuing a record pace, construction workers involved in the demolition of old buildings still face serious risks of asbestos exposure.
The U.S. Department of Labor provides builders, renovators, manufacturers and other companies who work in areas where asbestos exposure is likely with standards protect their employees from asbestos exposure. In addition to laws, employers also have access to interactive compliance tools and third party companies to help guide them in maintaining an environment can be worked in safely without risking exposure to asbestos.
But despite ample warnings from the government and verdicts in the courts that issue steep penalties for non-compliance with asbestos standards, many construction companies, faced with deadlines, tight budgets, or a simple ignorance about or disregard for the dangers of asbestos, will sometimes require construction workers to work in areas where asbestos exposure is extremely likely.
If you have worked in construction or the building trades industry for many years and you believe you were exposed to asbestos during that time, or if you have contracted an asbestos-related illness from work you did prior to 1980, you have rights that experienced attorneys can help you exercise to obtain a settlement or verdict. MichieHamlett asbestos attorneys have represented clients in asbestos cases for twenty five years, and we know the many steps to take to obtain fair compensation for your asbestos exposure.
MichieHamlett attorneys also represent victims in cases involving exposure to other environmental toxins. Contact us today for a free consultation and to explore all of your legal options about environmental toxin exposure.