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Stone Masons - Mesothelioma Risks

Masonry is a specialized field that is often required for many building and construction projects. Stone masons in particular are very skilled and use a variety of tools to make beautiful end products, like walls, floors and outdoor walkways. Stone masons may work with slate, brick, stones and many other kinds of building materials to create the finished product. Some of the most common products used by stone masons are mortar and cement, used to set the stones in place. For many years, the popular building material asbestos was added to the cement and mortar, to make them stronger and durable, and able to withstand heat and pressure. However, asbestos was very harmful, and posed many health risks to those who worked with or around the material—stone masons included. Asbestos may provide good qualities to products, but exposure to it also puts people at risk for mesothelioma.

Asbestos fibers are easily released when the product which contains them is damaged or disturbed. When a stone mason works with mortar or cement, there are many opportunities for these small fibers to get into the air. If the mason is not wearing a mask, he or she will easily breathe in these fibers without even knowing. They mix in with dust, and look like dust to begin with, so mistaking asbestos for dust is an easy mistake to make. When asbestos fibers are breathed in, they attach themselves in the lungs and chest cavity, specifically on the membrane that lines our vital organs, the mesothelium.

The small asbestos fibers pack a big punch. They stay in the body for years, and build up with each new exposure. Mesothelioma does not develop immediately after exposure, instead it may be decades until a tumor begins to form. Mesothelioma is rare because of this length of time it takes for development, but also because there are only a few thousand people each year who are diagnosed with it. Although more than 8 million people have been exposed, a very unlucky few actually develop it. Still, many other asbestos diseases can result from exposure to asbestos, as well as life-long respiratory and breathing problems.

In addition to the demanding work they face, stone masons have been putting themselves at risk for years. Even though asbestos is not added to these materials today, repairing or replacing older masonry or stonework jobs can quickly stir up asbestos in the air, so caution and safety should be taken at all times. Former stone masons should educate themselves about the risks of asbestos exposure and visit with their doctor to discuss their occupational and health history.

Through regular visits, a doctor will be able to monitor any symptoms that may arise, and perform tests, screenings, biopsies and exams that can point to any signs of mesothelioma or other asbestos diseases. Early detection of mesothelioma is important, because many mesothelioma patients are often not diagnosed until they are in the advanced stages, when life expectancy is lowest. If the cancer is caught early on, it may be possible to operate and remove the tumor.

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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