Thursday, February 2, 2012

Asbestos Exposure in the Workplace during the 20th Century and Beyond by Wendy Moyer

Throughout the twentieth century asbestos had been used as one of the primary components of a multitude of products that were used by the construction industry. Well before the century was over asbestos had also been proven to be a cause of mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other life-threatening diseases.

Who is Most Susceptible to Develop an Asbestos Related Disease?

A study in the United Kingdom found that people who worked in construction, especially those who were born during the 1940s, are especially susceptible to develop asbestos-related lung cancer and mesothelioma. This is corroborated by the fact that the incidence of mesothelioma among drywallers, carpenters, and others in the construction industry has been relatively high.

That's because plumbers, electricians, drywallers, and carpenters that have worked with products that contained asbestos had been exposed to high amounts of asbestos fibers and toxic asbestos dust.

A major period of commercial construction in the United States began shortly after World War II and ran relatively unabated through the 1970s.

During these boom times the interstate highway system was developed. As a result, what had formerly been undeveloped areas boomed with heavy commercial and residential construction.

Asbestos was present in many of the materials that were used by the construction industry during the 1960s and the 1970s.

Although insulation materials became mostly asbestos-free during the 1970s, up to 85% of the millions of gaskets that were manufactured through the mid 1980s contained asbestos. Any industrial worker who had to replace gaskets that contained asbestos during this period was exposed to harmful levels of asbestos fibers.

Any construction worker who was involved in residential construction throughout most of the 1970s was exposed to the asbestos that was in building materials such as joint compound. If joint compound contained asbestos, when it was sanded it released asbestos fibers into the air.

These fibers could have been inhaled by anyone on the construction site.

During that period piping, floor tiles, and roofing material contained asbestos. When these materials were cut they, too, released asbestos into the air.

What Would Happen If Asbestos Was Completely Eliminated from Construction Materials?

Even if asbestos was completely eliminated from construction materials it would still pose significant health risks to anyone who is currently involved in demolition or renovation. That's because there are still so many different products that contain asbestos that are still within a large number of buildings throughout the United States.

However, authorities concur that unless products that contain asbestos are disturbed or cut there is little risk of asbestos exposure. In addition, most products that contain asbestos are covered with a protective coating of paint.

The problem is that over time asbestos products can start to deteriorate and crumble. When that happens dangerous asbestos particles become airborne. When buildings are renovated or demolished, material containing asbestos could also be damaged and torn.

Even with today's detailed regulations that pertain to the removal and handling of materials that contain asbestos problems can arise. Some companies still refuse to follow these regulations.