Survivors Book

Roofers & Slaters - Mesothelioma Risks

When you bake something, one of the best parts is the frosting that goes on top. Not unlike frosting, a roof on a house is what truly completes the construction. All across the United States, there are many kinds of roofs and roofing materials used, many that are designed specific to their geographic location. The people who install roofs for a living are called roofers, and may also be called slaters, because roofs can be made from slate, too. Their jobs are dangerous enough, climbing ladders and working on top of homes and buildings each day. Adding to the danger is asbestos, a harmful material that was added to roofing materials for years. Roofers who installed shingles and slate containing asbestos, as well as roofers today who may be removing it, are at risk for asbestos exposure, and the cancer it can cause: mesothelioma.

Asbestos was added to roofing materials because of its heat and flame resistant qualities. It was thought that by adding asbestos it would make homes safer. Asbestos also made roofing tiles and slate much more durable, meaning people wouldn't need to replace their roofs as often. However, every time one of these materials was touched, moved or cut, asbestos fibers were released. In roofing, the workers are constantly surrounded by these materials. Asbestos fibers are easily breathable, especially if no safety gear is being used—and it usually wasn't.

The more fibers that are breathed in, the more at risk a person becomes. After years of prolonged exposure, roofers and slaters can have a risk hundreds of times greater than the average person who many only be exposed to asbestos occasionally. In fact, the construction industry has the second highest rate of mesothelioma development, after shipbuilders and shipyard workers. These scary statistics should move people to do something about their health, but unfortunately not many people are aware of the risks they face.

Mesothelioma is the result of prolonged asbestos exposure. Asbestos fibers can also cause scar tissue to form, and also cause many breathing and respiratory problems as well. The signs and symptoms of mesothelioma are typical symptoms you might get during a cold or the flu, and many people try to shrug them off as an illness that will simply go away. Unlike other forms of cancer that have external signs such as bruising, there are no external signs for mesothelioma, making it much more difficult to detect and diagnose. Sometimes doctors will even overlook the signs and mistake them for something else. Due to this, mesothelioma is often not diagnosed in many patients until it has advanced to a late-term stage. As a result, the life expectancy for many mesothelioma patients is not usually longer than 2 or 3 years, even after treatments have been exhausted.

Although the use of asbestos was banned in 1980, roofers and slaters today should take caution when working around asbestos-laced materials. Over 700,000 buildings and homes in the United States still contain some form of asbestos, many of it being in the roof and attic areas. Taking simple safety steps can reduce the risk of asbestos exposure immensely.


Workers at Risk for Asbestos Exposure

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

Last Edited: Sun July 26, 2020