Iron workers have been responsible for some of the most important and largest construction projects of the past 200 years. They are crucial contributors to the development of bridges, high rises, stadiums, towers, manufacturing plants, and much more. Aside from large construction projects, iron workers often participate in the demolition of buildings, maintenance of structures, and installation of insulation. Unfortunately, these projects often lead to asbestos exposure.
Iron Workers and Asbestos
Asbestos was a commonly used material in construction and insulation until links between asbestos and various illnesses were discovered in the 1980s. As a result, iron workers on construction projects were often occupationally exposed to asbestos. Slate board and insulation were both handled by iron workers, and they frequently contained asbestos. The cutting of insulation products on construction sites caused asbestos to become airborne, at which point it could enter the lungs of construction professionals, including iron workers.
Iron workers also worked with metal I-beams that were coated with asbestos-laden insulation in order to protect structural elements from fire. Any time these I-beams needed repair or re-insulation, iron workers were again put at risk of asbestos exposure. Iron workers’ family members were also sometimes exposed to secondhand asbestos when the workers brought the dust home on their clothing, skin, or hair.
Asbestos exposure in iron workers often led to several health problems. Mesothelioma is one of the illnesses associated with asbestos exposure. It is a cancer of the lining of the heart, lungs, and abdominal cavity. Typically, those diagnosed with mesothelioma receive grim prognoses. Usually, iron workers who develop mesothelioma do not develop symptoms until years or even decades after asbestos exposure.
Lung cancer has also been linked to occupational asbestos exposure. The risk is significantly increased in smokers. Though lung cancer can have many causes, asbestos seems to increase the risk in construction staff such as iron workers. When asbestos is a contributing factor in lung cancer, the disease is called asbestos related lung cancer. Finally, iron workers sometimes develop asbestosis, which is an illness caused by scar tissue in the lungs. This restricts blood flow and causes difficulty breathing and pain.
Iron workers are exposed to asbestos less commonly since the dangers of this material have been exposed. However, buildings built before the risks posed by asbestos were fully understood might still contain asbestos and may pose a continued threat to iron workers involved in their repair or demolition.