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Sawyers - Mesothelioma Risks

A sawyer is a person whose occupation involves sawing - traditionally, a sawyer would have been engaged in cutting wood, but nowadays a sawyer is more likely to cut stone, concrete slab or other materials that might be used at a construction site. Carpenters, in contrast, are the ones who usually work with wood now.

Sawyers would typically also have cut large pieces or slabs of asbestos-containing materials, including asbestos-cement sheeting and pipes. Asbestos has been added to cement for decades, because it not only helps strengthen the cement, but also makes the cement extremely flameproof and heat-resistant.

These beneficial aspects of mixing asbestos with cement, however, are outweighed by the toxic effects this mineral and products made from it can have on the human body. Asbestos is a carcinogen, and when any product or substance containing it is damaged - as it would be, of course, when it was cut by a sawyer - microscopic particles can be released into the air. These particles can best be described as either curly or needlelike fibers, which can work their way into the body, usually through inhalation. Once there, they become deeply embedded in the soft tissues, particularly a protective membrane known as the mesothelium. The mesothelium protects and surrounds the lungs and chest cavity, as well as other organs in the body, but since the asbestos particulate is generally inhaled, pleural (lung) mesothelioma is the most common type.

Sawyers and others who have been exposed to asbestos may not develop symptoms of mesothelioma until years, or even decades, after first performing the work that caused the exposure. This means that, sadly, most cases of mesothelioma are not diagnosed until they have reached the later stages of the disease - at which time the cancer is not usually operable or even treatable. Palliative care treatments, including pain medications, and chemotherapy and radiation to ease pain and improve breathing, can be provided. But the cancer metastasizes so quickly that at this point, there is little that can be done to stop it. Another procedure, called paracentesis, can also improve the patient's breathing by removing some of the excess pleural fluid from the chest cavity.

Despite its carcinogenicity, asbestos remains legal in small percentages in new construction. However, it remains in older structures, particularly ships, oil refineries and factories that undergo extreme temperatures or run a high risk of fire. This means that a sawyer who enters those facilities while on the job may still run a risk of asbestos cancer, even if not working directly with asbestos-cement products.

It's also possible to contract mesothelioma simply from breathing in the asbestos dust that can cling to a person's clothes or hair. There have been cases of family members and caregivers who have contracted mesothelioma from simply hugging, or washing the clothes of, workers who were regularly exposed to asbestos in the workplace and brought the dust home on their person. That's why it's important for anyone who has worked as a sawyer, or who has had a loved one who worked as a sawyer, to understand the symptoms and consequences of this deadly disease, and to make their doctor aware of the potential for previous asbestos exposure, and therefore an asbestos related disease.


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