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Written By: Devin Golden

Asbestos Exposure for Roofers and Siders

Roofers and siders are part of the construction industry. For many decades during the 20th century, these two occupations involved regular exposure to asbestos. The deadly mineral was used on roofing shingles, sealants, adhesives, paint and more. Unfortunately, occupational asbestos exposure for roofers and siders can lead to an aggressive cancer called mesothelioma.

Retired LCDR Carl Jewett

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Retired LCDR Carl Jewett

VA-Accredited Claims Agent

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Important Facts About Asbestos Exposure for Roofers and Siders

  • Roofers and siders were exposed to asbestos through using asbestos-containing materials, such as roof shingles, mastics, adhesives, siding and more. Roofers and siders could also be exposed to asbestos from working near other construction occupations involving asbestos.
  • Asbestos is fire-resistant and durable, which is why it was manufactured in roofing and siding materials. Asbestos was capable of helping maintain the strength of roof shingles and controlling fire damage for buildings.
  • Exposure to asbestos can lead to a rare and aggressive cancer called mesothelioma. Asbestos can also cause lung cancer and other types of cancer.

Overview of Roofing and Siding Occupations

Roofers install shingles, asphalt, metal, or other materials on roofs of homes, offices and other buildings to make the roof weatherproof. Roofers are hired to replace, repair, and install the roofs of buildings, using a variety of materials, including shingles and metal. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were approximately 159,000 roofers in the U.S. as of 2021.

Siders apply siding and install doors and windows to exterior wall panels of homes, offices and other buildings. They lay out the siding on sheathing and use a saw to cut siding to fit predetermined spaces. They then position, align and fasten windows and doors into openings in the wall exterior.

How Asbestos Was Part of Roofing and Siding

Asbestos is a durable mineral and is a fireproofing agent, which made it an appealing substance for many aspects of construction work. Many types of roofing shingles, for instance, were manufactured with asbestos during the 20th century before the workers and general public knew the mineral was dangerous.

Asbestos was also used in adhesives to keep roof shingles connected and in mastics and plastic cements  for roofing and siding to prevent water from infiltrating the building. When roofers or siders cut or shaped these materials, they could disturb asbestos and release dangerous fibers into the air.

Roofers and siders also worked near carpenters, insulators, electricians and drywallers, all of whom were construction occupations featuring materials made with asbestos. Any disturbance of asbestos from those jobs can lead to exposure for roofers and siders just by being in the vicinity.

Asbestos in Roofing and Siding Materials

Roofers and siders often worked with asbestos-contaminated asphalt materials or replaced old asbestos roof materials with new ones.

According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, asbestos-containing materials are any material with more than 1% of asbestos. However, any level of exposure to asbestos can be dangerous and lead to a disease, such as cancer. Roofers and siders should take any amount of asbestos seriously.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the following roofing products can contain asbestos:

  • Asphalt roofing felt
  • Asphalt roofing shingles
  • Cement roofing shingles
  • Asphalt-containing base flashings
  • Roof coatings or underlayment
  • Tar paper
  • Sealants
  • Flashing

Asbestos can be found in the following siding materials:

  • Wood shake vapor barriers
  • Cement-asbestos board (transite) siding
  • “Slate” siding
  • Mastics
  • Adhesives
  • Paint
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Find out where you may have been exposed to asbestos

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Health Risks for Roofers and Siders Exposed to Asbestos

Asbestos is not dangerous when it’s intact as a sturdy and stable mineral. However, asbestos is made of tiny fibers – similar to woven fabric – and these fibers can easily splinter and break from the source.

When the fibers break apart, they become dangerous to anyone in the vicinity. They float in the air and can be unknowingly inhaled or swallowed. The fibers are sharp, meaning they can puncture cell linings once they enter the body. Puncturing these cell linings can lead to cancer, such as lung cancer or a rare and aggressive cancer called mesothelioma.

Roofers and siders used saws or other equipment that could disturb any present asbestos, releasing loose particles into the workspace. Friable asbestos, specifically, is more likely to separate from the source and easily infiltrate the body, leading to cancer.

Most exposure risks for roofers and siders occurred in the 20th century, when asbestos was a prized element of construction work. Roofers and siders who installed roof shingles and doors or wall panels may have handled materials made with asbestos.

Starting in the 1980s, many companies began finding alternatives to asbestos due to legal liabilities and the general public learning the mineral was linked to cancer. Therefore, most new construction projects (installing new roof shingles, for instance) won’t involve asbestos.

Legacy asbestos is still a concern for roofers and siders. Legacy asbestos refers to any old asbestos that was installed in an old home or building during the 20th century and has not been removed since then. Roofers and siders may encounter legacy asbestos during repair work, and they should remain cautious.

Legal Options for Roofers and Siders With Asbestos Diseases

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma and once installed, repaired, or replaced roofing or siding materials in homes, offices and other buildings, you should be compensated to help with medical bills, lost wages and more. You deserve financial help from the companies responsible for manufacturing asbestos-containing materials, such as asphalt shingles, adhesives, tar paper, underlayment and more

This compensation can come from asbestos lawsuits or asbestos trust funds, which are bank accounts with money set aside to compensate victims of asbestos diseases. The first step to starting the process for either option is contacting a lawyer to learn about your case and which companies are responsible for your mesothelioma.

Contact our lead patient advocate, Karen Ritter, via email at karen@mesotheliomaguide.com for quick contact with a helpful resource. She can put you in touch with a legal expert or help you find treatment from a top cancer center.

Frequently Asked Questions About Asbestos Exposure for Roofers and Siders

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What Are Some Roofing and Siding Materials Made With Asbestos?

The roofing materials made with asbestos include asphalt shingles, cement shingles, asphalt felt, tar paper, roof coatings, and underlayment. Siding materials containing asbestos include mastics, adhesives, paint, and cement-asbestos siding.

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How Were Roofers and Siders Exposed to Asbestos?

Asbestos is most dangerous when its disturbed, and construction jobs such as roofing and siding contained a few tasks that could disturb the mineral and release tiny fibers into the air. Roofers and siders used saws or other equipment that could disturb any present asbestos.

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What Dangers Does Asbestos Exposure Present for Roofers and Siders?

Asbestos exposure can cause cancer or other deadly diseases for roofers and siders. The diseases caused by asbestos exposure include mesothelioma, lung cancer, and a noncancerous-yet-deadly lung scarring disease called asbestosis. Mesothelioma is a rare cancer caused solely by asbestos exposure, and roofers or siders with this cancer are entitled to compensation from the companies that caused their exposure.

Sources & Author

  1. Roofing and Siding: Asbestos. Minnesota Department of Health. Retrieved from: https://www.health.state.mn.us/communities/environment/asbestos/homeowner/roofside.html. Accessed: 08/24/2023.
  2. Roofers. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/roofers.htm. Accessed: 08/24/2023.
  3. Asbestos Frequently Asked Questions. Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Retrieved from: https://floridadep.gov/air/permitting-compliance/content/asbestos-faq. Accessed: 08/25/2023.
Devin Golden

About the Writer, Devin Golden

Devin Golden is a content writer for Mesothelioma Guide. He produces mesothelioma-related content on various mediums, including the Mesothelioma Guide website and social media channels. Devin's objective is to translate complex information regarding mesothelioma into informative, easily absorbable content to help patients and their loved ones.