Ohio Construction Workers at High Risk of Asbestos Exposure & Mesothelioma Cancer
Workers in almost every construction trade face the risk of developing asbestos-related illnesses, including lung disease and cancers. In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) ranks construction among the most hazardous industries in the U.S.
Thousands of commercial construction materials once contained asbestos. Though the use of asbestos products has declined because of safety concerns, the toxin can still be found in many materials used in homes and buildings. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests that asbestos products are present in the vast majority of the nation’s 733,000 public and commercial buildings.
Asbestos products can become hazardous when the loose fibers are released into the air. This usually occurs when adhesives, seals, cement, roofing and flooring break down over time. Also, during renovation, demolition or regular construction, these materials can also be disturbed.
Asbestos is a known cause of mesothelioma, a deadly cancer that can develop several decades after first exposure. Because of the long latency period of asbestos-related illnesses, construction tradesmen who worked with asbestos years or even decades ago continue to develop cancer and lung diseases.
Mesothelioma & Lung Cancer Risks
Asbestos dust can spread around job sites easily and expose even those workers who do not handle asbestos directly. Workers can also bring dust home on their clothes, endangering their families, who then become at risk of secondary exposures.
A significant study in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine concluded, “Occupational airborne particulates are an important cause of death and disability worldwide.”
Construction occupations at highest risk for asbestos exposure:
- Demolitions and wrecking crews
- Flooring installers
- AC workers
- Brick Layers
- Bulldozer and crane operators
- Drywall workers
- Insulation workers
- General laborers
- Pipefitters & Plumbers
- Masonry workers
Drywall workers are at a particular high risk for asbestos-related disease. Workers often cut, saw and sand drywall panels, which can easily release asbestos fibers into the air.
Masonry workers mixed raw asbestos into construction compounds, and also cut into bricks, sending asbestos dust in the surrounding area. Roofers handled asbestos shingles, and also sprayed toxic seals and adhesives.
Asbestos in the Construction Industry
Construction workers have been exposed to many toxic materials over the years, including asbestos. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 27 million American workers were exposed to asbestos in the last 50 years. Unfortunately, the problem persists. It is estimated that over 1.3 million construction workers are exposed to asbestos materials every year, putting them at risk of developing diseases like mesothelioma and asbestosis.
A study published in 2015 concluded that there is an “increased risk of lung cancer for subjects who ever held an occupation in the construction industry.” The researchers named asbestos as a known trigger for pulmonary issues like lung cancer.
A 1999 study undertaken by the Duke University Medical Center found elevated rates of cancers in general construction workers. The research noted that the following trades were at the highest risk of developing occupational-related cancer: laborers, roofers, painters, carpenters, brick masons, operating engineers, and dry-wall workers.
It is important to note that construction workers with longer careers have a higher risk of illness. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) warns that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure.
Hazardous Asbestos Materials
Asbestos has numerous applications in the construction industry, and many were used as common practice up until the 1980s in the construction of homes, schools and commercial buildings. Some of the most commonly used materials include the following:
- Adhesives (asphaltic cutback adhesive, emulsion adhesive, fibrous adhesive, lagging adhesive)
- Construction Mastics
- Gold Bond Adhesives
- Gunning Mix
- Ductwork Connectors and duct adhesive
- Floor Backing
- Drywall taping compounds
- Flooring tiles
- Roofing tiles and seals
- Cement and Cement adhesive
- Vinyl flooring
- Spray-on acoustic insulation
- Duct tape
- Joint packing
- Construction felts
- Siding panels
- Textured paints
- Loose-fill attic insulation
Construction Worker Lawsuits
• In 2010, a painter in Texas who developed mesothelioma after spending much of his life working with texturized top coats and fillers sued a number of asbestos product manufacturers. A jury awarded him an $11 million verdict.
• In 2005, a San Francisco jury awarded a sheet metal worker nearly $2 million dollars after he developed mesothelioma from working with duct connectors and duct sealers, which contained asbestos.
• Owens Corning Fiberglass Corporation was found negligent and a jury awarded one victim of mesothelioma a verdict of nearly $3.5 million. His attorney said the man worked for Owens Corning in the 1960s and was exposed to their toxic insulation product.
• In the 1990s, two engineers filed lawsuits against North American Refractory Company (NARCO). According to their lawyers, the victims, who suffered from related lung diseases, were exposed to high levels of asbestos dust from a gunning mix. The jury found North American Refractory Company liable and awarded the men $7 million.
Ohio Asbestos Exposure
Nearly any construction, renovation or demolition site in Ohio could have the potential to expose workers to harmful asbestos fibers. Below are a few established workplaces known to have asbestos materials, which were regularly handled by employees.
• Martin Builders—Athens, Ohio
• Murphy’s Roofing—Fairborn, Ohio
• Southwestern Portland Cement Company—Fairborn, Ohio
• Universal Atlas Cement—Fairborn, Ohio
• Porter Drywall—Gallipolis, Ohio
• Lehigh Portland Cement Company—Wellston, Ohio
• Johns Manville—Toledo, Ohio
• Owens Corning—Toledo, Ohio
Symptoms of Mesothelioma
Signs and symptoms of asbestos-related illnesses such as asbestosis and cancers vary depending on where the cancer occurs. Mesothelioma, which affects the tissue surrounding the lungs, causes symptoms that may include:
- Chest pain
- Painful coughing
- Shortness of breath
- Unusual lumps of tissue under the skin on your chest
- Lumps of tissue in the abdomen
- Unexplained weight loss
Ohio Construction Workers Lawsuits
Asbestos exposure and its deadly consequences are an ongoing issue throughout the country. Medical studies estimate that the cumulative total number of asbestos associated deaths in the United States may exceed 200,000 by the year 2030.
Construction companies and manufacturers of building materials have a responsibility to provide America’s employees with safe working environments.
When responsible parties fail to protect workers, they should compensate employees and families for the damage they have caused. Workers in Ohio’s construction industry who have developed health issues may have claims against their former employers, or material manufacturers. Please do not hesitate to seek medical and legal assistance.