In many ways, construction workers are unsung heroes in the American economy. Some perform back-breaking physical labor while constructing the homes in which we live and the commercial buildings in which we work. Some are highly-trained craftsmen, creating beauty that will be enjoyed for years to come. And construction workers enter into their jobs with the full knowledge that the hours are long and that the work is exhausting and difficult. But many construction workers have no idea that they have entered into a world of danger, where asbestos lurks and the potential for the development of mesothelioma exists.
Asbestos and a Long History of Commercial Use
Asbestos is the general name for six naturally occurring minerals. In its natural state, it is not dangerous to humans. Moreover, from as far back as ancient times, asbestos has been prized in industry because of its helpful commercial uses. Asbestos fibers are heat resistant, chemical resistant, and fire resistant. Moreover, it does not conduct electricity. Therefore, industry found the mineral extremely useful.
Unfortunately, however, when asbestos is disturbed, particles of the mineral become airborne and can be inhaled. These fibers, if inhaled over time and in sufficient quantity, can create extreme health hazards, including the development of mesothelioma. In fact, multiple governmental agencies, including the United States Department of Health and Human Services and the United States Environmental Protection Agency have classified asbestos as a human carcinogen.
Asbestos Dangers in the Construction Industry
Unfortunately, workers in the construction industry historically have had a high level of risk for exposure to asbestos. For decades in America, it was common for asbestos to be used in products commonly used in construction involving floors, ceilings, walls, insulation, and elsewhere in buildings. Moreover, even after employers and manufacturers started to learn about the health hazards related to asbestos exposure, the dangers were intentionally hidden from employees and workers for many years. It took the efforts of determined litigants and their lawyers to finally start holding these wrongdoers accountable for their actions.
Improvements in Protecting Construction Workers
Fortunately, some things have improved. Over time, the government has taken steps to better regulate the use of asbestos. In fact, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration has created numerous regulations for the proper handling of asbestos and the protection of workers exposed to it. But it’s important to remember that, while some uses of asbestos have been prohibited, it has not been completely banned.
Moreover, buildings can last for decades and decades. Therefore, even though some uses of asbestos are no longer permitted, the country is full of buildings built at a time when asbestos was freely used. Thus, these buildings still contain the dangerous mineral. It is the disturbance of asbestos that creates the greatest danger. Activities such as sawing, drilling, sanding, and cutting can disturb asbestos in old buildings and cause the fibers to become airborne. Once airborne, these fibers can be inhaled. Thus, many construction workers are still at risk.
What if I Was Exposed to Asbestos Many Years Ago?
Unfortunately, for those who have been exposed to asbestos, the passage of time is no guarantee that one is home free. In fact, it normally takes many years for mesothelioma to develop after the initial exposure to the dangerous substance.
Call with Questions
If you have a history in the construction industry and think you may have been exposed to asbestos, please feel free to call us with your questions. The experienced mesothelioma lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield will be happy to help you in any way we can. By taking steps to hold wrongdoers responsible for their actions, we can all help ensure that we live in the safest society possible.