As a New York construction worker, you likely are exposed to asbestos on a daily basis, whether you realize it or not. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral found in many construction and consumer products due to its excellent insulating properties and resistance to fire. The problem with asbestos, however, is that it breaks down over time or when disturbed by things such as drills, saws, sanders and other tools or implements.
Unlike many other substances, asbestos does not turn into normal dust when it breaks down. Instead, it turns into microscopic fibers that disperse into the air in the slightest air current. Regular dust masks cannot stop them. Consequently, you inhale these fibers and they start to build up in your body, particularly in the lining of your lungs. Ultimately this buildup scars your lungs and leads to such debilitating illnesses as asbestosis and mesothelioma.
Workers Most at Risk
While all constructions are at risk for inhaling asbestos fibers, your risk is highest if you are one of the following types of workers:
- Drywall installer
- Bricklayer or stonemason
- Floor or wall tile installer
- Demolition worker
In addition, if you spend much of your time renovating buildings, the Environmental Protection Agency reports that a high percentage of both public and commercial buildings contain asbestosis, particularly those built prior to the 1970s.
Risky Materials and Products
Despite the fact that 55 countries have completely banned asbestos, its use is still legal in the United States. While the EPA and other agencies have sought to establish a “safe” level of asbestos, no scientific study has ever determined that asbestos is safe to inhale at any level whatsoever. As a result, more than 6 million construction workers nationwide have a high risk of asbestos exposure, with New York ranking among the top five states employing such workers as you. Not surprisingly, nearly 50 percent of work-related cancer fatalities occur because of asbestos exposure.
The construction materials and products containing the highest amounts of asbestos include the following:
- Drywall and related products
- Duct tape
- Roofing felts and coatings
- Textured paints
- Vinyl floor tiles and coverings
- Siding panels
- Joint packing
- Insulating cements and shingles
- Any product that contains vermiculite
Insidious and Stealthy Killer
Not only do you inhale asbestos fibers, you ingest them since they fall onto the food you eat and into the beverages you drink while at work. If you are a smoker, you also ingest asbestos fibers that fall on your cigarettes, pipe, cigars, etc. Remember, these fibers are microscopic and lighter than air. They disperse over a wide area around whichever materials and products contain them. In fact, there are three types of asbestos exposure as follows:
- Occupational exposure by you and your co-workers
- Para-occupational exposure by your family when you unknowingly bring the asbestos fibers home on your hair, skin, clothing and shoes
- Neighborhood exposure by people living or working in close proximity to a building that contains asbestos
Asbestos Illness Diagnosis
One of the most frightening aspects of asbestos exposure is that it can take years or even decades for your symptoms to appear and be recognized by your physician as mesothelioma (an aggressive lung cancer), asbestosis (severe lung scarring) or another asbestos-related illness. It is not at all uncommon for your diagnosis to occur 25-45 years after your initial asbestos exposure.
Asbestos Exposure Lawsuits
Most asbestos exposure lawsuits are some form of product liability suit against the manufacturer, distributor or seller of the product or material. Many construction and other workers, however, also sue their employers for personal injury since the employer knew or should have known about the dangerous working conditions.
If you need a personal injury or product liability litigator or if you are an attorney who needs outside personal injury or product liability litigation help, please call Richard A. Dubi toll-free at 833-FOR-DUBI (833-367-3824).