Workers who have worked in a maintenance capacity within steel mills, textile mills, chemical plants, and in boiler rooms or industrial shops before the 1980s are highly likely to have undergone asbestos exposure at some point in their career. These workers currently employed in buildings that have not received asbestos abatement may also be subject to exposure to asbestos when they are repairing or maintaining the building in question. The cleaning of asbestos itself is a very dangerous job as asbestos fibers are able to become disturbed and then airborne, making them able to be inhaled by the workers who are present in the area.
Maintenance Workers and Asbestos
To this day, asbestos has not been completely removed from government buildings and certainly not from private buildings. In the year 1998, several men who were employed by the Architect of the Capitol found that several tunnels in D.C., where they worked, contained large amounts of asbestos. Although they desired the asbestos be removed from the area, their request was disregarded and they were labeled as troublemakers. Furthermore, they were reproached by their employer, with the result being no cleanup of the area at all. It wasn’t until October of 2006 that they generated a whistle-blower complaint against their employer due to work conditions.
Electrical and plumbing work, which is commonly completed by workers in the maintenance field, often consists of work with asbestos gaskets and insulation. Other maintenance workers are responsible for fleet and vehicular maintenance. These workers then risk exposure to asbestos within the gaskets of the engine as well as linings of the brake pads. Research studies have proven that maintenance workers are subject to high levels of asbestos exposure due to their jobs. This exposure can then lead to diseases such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer, and others.
The hazards of asbestos have been well known for hundreds of years, beginning in ancient Greece. It was noted that slaves who were exposed to the material developed respiratory problems and died unusually premature. Additional research was completed in the United States and Europe during the early 20th century, but even this did not halt the use of the mineral in construction and other industries. In fact, the use of asbestos continued to increase until the 1970s. Although usage of the mineral has greatly decreased, asbestos is still considered to be a legal substance when used within certain amounts and applications, even in the U.S.