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Masonry Workers - Mesothelioma Risks

Masonry is a profession that dates back for hundreds of years. As a prime building material, brick-laying masons need to be specialized in their field in order to get the job done correctly. From large mansions to small pizza ovens, masons can be found doing a variety of jobs. Although there are many benefits to the profession, there are also some downsides. Aside from working long hours in all kinds of weather, masons have long been at risk for asbestos exposure. At the height of its use, asbestos was used in a variety of masonry products: it was added to the mortar used to lay the bricks, the bricks themselves, and even the tools used to do the job.

Asbestos was added to these materials because it helped them withstand heat and pressure - desirable qualities for bricks. They were able to make stronger structures that could sustain much more than a typical brick structure could in the past. The problem with asbestos is that it is easily disturbed, especially in masonry. When these products are disturbed, asbestos fibers are emitted into the air and can be easily breathed in. Although asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral, it is not natural to the human body, and therefore cannot be broken down inside the body. Instead, the asbestos fibers become trapped in the mesothelium, the membrane that lines the chest cavity, as well as the abdominal cavity and the heart.

These fibers build up after each exposure—imagine what years of constant exposure can do to the mesothelium. Scar tissue, inflammation and fluid buildup are all effects of asbestos fibers—and have lasting damage and a severe impact on one's health. However, it is the toxic carcinogen in asbestos that leads to the development of a mesothelioma tumor. Mesothelioma cancer can stay dormant in the body for decades, only becoming a problem when the patient is in their 50s, 60s or 70s. The symptoms associated with mesothelioma can be similar to those of aging, the flu, or a cold, and are often overlooked by both the patient and the patient's physician.

Due to its slow development and overlooked symptoms, mesothelioma often goes undiagnosed for years, leaving it to slowly spread through the body and cause even more damage. In the highest stages of mesothelioma, treatment can be hard to handle for the body, and is usually less effective due to the extent of the cancer's development.

It is expected that the number of mesothelioma cases will increase significantly in the next decade or so, as the latency period from the time when asbestos use was most popular is beginning to expire. Construction workers, including masons, have the third highest rate of mesothelioma risk and development, after shipyards and manufacturing. Former and current masonry workers are encouraged to see a doctor on a regular basis to undergo screening and tests for asbestos and mesothelioma. If more people are educated about the signs and symptoms, there may yet be a drop in the number of people who lose their lives to this terrible cancer.

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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