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At Risk Occupations - Drywall Tapers & Mesothelioma

The impact of the United States' entry into World War II was felt worldwide and throughout many industries across the country. One of the biggest of these industries was construction of military structures and homes that popped up at the onset of the baby boom. The world was going through changes at a very fast pace, and the construction industry was trying hard to keep up with demand.

One of the biggest changes made during this time was the move from plastering walls to the use of drywall—a move that saved time and money for the industry and helped keep customers happy. Drywall is one of the best things to come out of this time. Not only was it cheaper and easier to install, it provided added protection against fire, and was also a good insulator. The reason for these qualities was asbestos, which was included in the gypsum material at the core of drywall materials.

While the asbestos played a part in making these materials and structures safer, they were actually doing more harm than good, especially for the people who constructed them. For drywall tapers, asbestos exposure was high, and has put many of these workers at risk for developing a rare cancer known as mesothelioma. Drywall tapers were exposed daily, and at extremely close range, to the asbestos mineral within the drywall.

The process that created the most exposure, one that was required to do the job, was sanding the drywall tape and putty down to make it smooth. This process disrupted the asbestos fibers within the drywall, pushing them out into the air where they were easily breathable. Drywall tapers may have also been exposed by other materials they used, such as drywall tape, joint compound, plaster, and wall patching compounds. All of these products contained asbestos prior to 1980, when it became highly regulated and even banned in some industries.

The asbestos fibers, when inhaled, become embedded in the lining of the chest cavity, the same lining that covers the lungs, called the mesothelium. The fibers stay in the mesothelium for years, causing harm to the tissue and leaving a lasting mark. Because it is a carcinogen, asbestos also has toxic effects, which is what can lead to the development of a malignant mesothelioma tumor. The tumor may not begin to develop until years, and sometimes even decades, after initial exposure. Mesothelioma patients are often much older when they are diagnosed, sometimes in their sixties and seventies. Many did not even realize they had been exposed to asbestos so many years prior, and may have gone undiagnosed because of it. Mesothelioma is difficult to diagnose because its symptoms mimic those of more common, less serious illnesses. Even a very experienced doctor can overlook mesothelioma, especially if the threat of asbestos was unknown.

In 2007, the family of a former drywall taper was awarded more than $800,000 for wrongful death. He had contracted a number of asbestos-related diseases and died because of them. His death could have been prevented if the asbestos manufacturers had not been greedy and negligent, and had done the right thing by revealing the risks and effects of asbestos when they were first known—almost 40 years before they were finally made available to the public. You too may be entitled to compensation for personal injury inflicted by asbestos; contact a lawyer today to find out your options.

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Last Edited: Thu November 14, 2013