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Carpenters - Mesothelioma Risks

Mesothelioma is a rare but aggressive form of cancer that affects the mesothelium - the thin tissue that lines the lungs, heart, and abdominal cavity. The disease is almost always caused by asbestos exposure. About 90 percent of all cases of mesothelioma have been directly linked to exposure to the deadly material. The other 10 percent of cases generally have suspected links to asbestos exposure, but these links remain unconfirmed.

Asbestos was, for many decades, considered to be an ideal construction material. It has a variety of useful properties, including a high resistance to heat and electricity, a high tensile strength, and a resistance to chemical wear. Asbestos-containing materials were therefore used in a variety of modes, including as insulation for wires, pipes, and water heaters. Asbestos was also incorporated into tiles, and roofing shingles. It was also commonly used as insulation in walls and ceilings for homes, schools, and office buildings.

Asbestos does not pose a threat when it remains undisturbed. However, when it is being moved, cut, hammered, or drilled, or when it falls into disrepair, tiny asbestos fibers can break off and become airborne. Once in the air, they can be easily inhaled or swallowed, and can lodge themselves in the deepest parts of the lungs and in the mesothelium. There, they can cause damage to otherwise normal mesothelial cells, causing them to mutate and turn into malignant mesothelioma cells. These cells divide rapidly and without any order, creating a deadly tumor that can invade essential organs and interfere with their functioning.

The most frequently listed professions recorded on death certificates of people aged 15 and older who had died of asbestos-related diseases were related to the construction industry. In fact, nearly a quarter of all deaths due to asbestos can be attributed to jobs in construction. A substantial portion of these - about 4.2% of all asbestos-related deaths - were carpenters.

Carpenters are responsible for working in many different kinds of construction jobs. Although they are not commonly thought to use asbestos-containing materials, they encounter the materials quite often. In addition to making cabinets, doors, tables, and chairs out of wood, they are sometimes responsible for installing drywall and installation.

Additionally, simply being on a construction site where other workers are using asbestos can be a hazard. Even if a carpenter is not handling asbestos-containing materials, other people on the construction might be kicking asbestos fibers into the air, putting everyone in the vicinity at risk. This holds true for construction sites where new installation is being installed, and renovation sites on old buildings that had asbestos insulation installed before the EPA ban.

If you have ever done carpentry work in a construction site that you believe contained asbestos, it is important that you discuss your health with your doctor. He or she can monitor your lung health closely, and alert you at the first sign of mesothelioma. Although the cancer is inevitably fatal, dramatically better prognoses can be achieved through early detection. In its earliest stages, the cancer might still be able to be operated on, and the chances of a longer survival time are greater.

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Workers at Risk for Asbestos Exposure

Below are a list of occupations and trades that were at risk for asbestos exposure:

Last Edited: Thu November 14, 2013