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Civil Engineers - Mesothelioma Risks

Civil engineering is a broad term that characterizes a wide array of engineering. It deals with the design, construction, and maintenance of the physically built environment, including such structures as roads, canals, bridges, buildings, and dams. Due to its breadth, it is usually divided into many sub-categories, based on the type of work being done. These include environmental engineering, water resources engineering, construction engineering, and structural engineering. Civil engineers are part of the brain power behind almost any construction project.

While civil engineers are rarely required to do any physical labor themselves, they can't be described as having a traditional desk job. Their responsibilities usually involve visits to construction sites. They work with architects and teamsters on site at building construction, road construction, and dam maintenance locations. At these sites, they may come in contact with asbestos containing materials.

Asbestos, a naturally occurring fibrous mineral, has been used for decades because of its useful physical properties. It is very durable, highly resistant to heat and electricity, and could withstand acids and corrosive chemicals. It was therefore frequently used as insulation around pipes, hot water heaters, furnaces, wires, and in many situations that involved high temperatures and voltages. It could also be used to strengthen cement and tiles, and was often used in brake and clutch pads in automobiles.

Unfortunately for civil engineers and anyone who is involved with construction work around asbestos-containing materials, asbestos has long been known to cause the cancer known as mesothelioma. This cancer. In fact, it has been found that around nine out of ten of all cases of mesothelioma are caused by exposure to asbestos. The other ten percent of cases usually have unconfirmed exposure to the material. Mesothelioma is a serious disease, and although rare, can quickly progress to a fatal stage and kill a patient within months.

When asbestos fibers are released into the air, they can be easily inhaled, and can lodge themselves in the lungs and the thin tissue that surrounds them. There, they can cause damage to the cells of this tissue - known as the mesothelium - and cause them to grow uncontrollably. This growth results in a tumor that can eventually spread to essential organs and cause them to cease functioning.

Luckily for the hundreds of thousands of homes that have asbestos insulation, the material is only deadly when its fibers are in the air and readily breathable. This requires that the asbestos be disturbed in some way. As long as the asbestos-containing material is not deteriorating and is not moved, cut, hammered, or drilled, it poses no health risk to anyone.

However, this does not make civil engineers safe from the fibers. In construction sites that are using asbestos, the material is almost certainly going to be released into the air. Also, any renovation or restoration project on a structure that contains asbestos has the potential to kick up asbestos fibers into the air. If the fibers weren't properly removed, or if the correct abatement procedures weren't followed, any construction workers, engineers, or contractors in the vicinity are put at risk of asbestos exposure.

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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