Construction workers in the 20th century faced an increased risk of asbestos exposure due to the heightened use of the mineral in homes, offices and other buildings.
While the use of asbestos in new construction has been all but eliminated, workers in this industry today still face a risk due to old asbestos remaining from past projects.
An example is asbestos in and around cement products – such as cement pipes – and a recent study confirms this risk for today’s construction workers.
The study, published in the Annals of Work Exposures and Health, highlights the dangers associated with installing and removing asbestos cement products. Workers often face exposure levels exceeding the occupational limits set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Asbestos is a dangerous mineral, capable of causing cancer. A rare cancer known as mesothelioma is only caused by exposure to asbestos. Other diseases caused by asbestos include lung cancer and ovarian cancer.
Occupational asbestos exposure is the most common way people come into close contact with this substance, and construction work is near the top of the list of trades linked to this type of exposure.
Research Shows Rampant Use of Asbestos Cement Pipes in U.S.
The research was conducted by Occupational Knowledge International, which found an excess amount of asbestos in cement pipes.
According to the study, there is approximately 600,000 miles of underground asbestos water pipes in the United States. The asbestos in these pipes is known as “legacy asbestos,” which refers to asbestos remaining in old buildings or structures constructed during the 20th century that has not been properly removed or replaced.
These water pipes have a lifespan of 50 years, meaning pipes installed during the 1970s and 1980s may still be in use today. The lingering presence of these asbestos cement pipes – and their eventual need for repair or replacement – poses a risk to workers.
Water utility workers often replace these pipes as part of ongoing projects, which means they may face regular exposure. When asbestos cement pipes are cut during utility projects, workers are exposed to more than 50 times the amount of asbestos that OSHA set as the permissible exposure limit.
“We found that exposures from asbestos cement products could be alarmingly high and certainly disproves the asbestos industry’s contention that these materials can be used in a ‘safe and responsible’ manner,” said Perry Gottesfeld, the executive director of Occupational Knowledge International.
Despite more than 60 countries banning asbestos, the United States has not taken this action. The Environmental Protection Agency is considering a total ban of the mineral, and activists have pushed for legislation to outlaw the manufacturing, sale, and use of the substance.
Sources & Author
- Study Reveals Asbestos Exposure in Construction. ForConstructionPros. Retrieved from: https://www.forconstructionpros.com/business/article/22884270/occupational-knowledge-international-ok-international-study-reveals-asbestos-exposure-in-construction. Accessed: 01/23/2024.
Sources & Author