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Construction workers and the dangers of asbestos exposure

In this blog, we discuss at length the many and significant dangers that construction workers face on a regular basis. While the vast majority of construction-related hazards are visible and obvious, there are others that cannot be seen and the negative effects of which may not be apparent for years.

Asbestos is a natural mineral that is found in rocks and the soil. Resistant to heat and corrosion, asbestos was previously used in many construction materials such as insulation, fire retardants, ceiling and floor tiles, paint and cement. Asbestos was readily used in these and many other building, car and construction materials until the 1970s when mounting evidence about the mineral’s health dangers came to light.

If disturbed or damaged, tiny asbestos particles are released into the air where they may be directly breathed in or cling to clothing or other materials where they are likely to eventually be disturbed and breathed in. Asbestos particles do not break down naturally and therefore remain in an individual’s lung tissues and may eventually lead to the development of lung disease and cancer.

While the use of asbestos in many construction and building materials has been banned, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, asbestos is still used in coating materials, cement sheeting and piping, roofing materials and vinyl floor tiles. Even more concerning is the fact that a significant percentage of older buildings in New York City still contain asbestos.

For construction workers who are responsible for renovation and demolition projects, the risks of being exposed to asbestos are significant. Construction employers are required to abide by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s safety standards with regard to exposure to asbestos and the use of ventilation and other safety equipment.

 

Source: EPA.gov, “Learn About Asbestos,” Sept. 22, 2015

EPA.gov, “U.S. Federal Bans on Asbestos,” Sept. 22, 2015

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