Asbestos still a risk, but other hazards also endanger your lungs

If you work construction, you are already aware of the common dangers you face every day. Falling from heights, objects striking you and electrocution are just a few of the hazards you try to avoid. However, you may not consider that cancer is also a serious possibility for construction workers.

Perhaps you wear personal protection equipment to arrest your fall, to prevent particles from getting into your eyes or to protect your hearing from the loud machinery you work around. What you may not realize is that the dust you inhale every day may be full of harmful toxins that are already at work in your lungs potentially cutting your life short. In fact, construction workers are 50 percent more likely to develop some form of lung cancer than those working in other industries.

Your employer has a duty

Cutting masonry or concrete, or being nearby when such cutting occurs, doubles your risk of lung illnesses. The saws and drills used to penetrate cement stir up fibers such as asbestos and crystalline silica. Asbestos has long been linked to incurable cancers like mesothelioma, the symptoms of which may take decades to manifest. Silica, on the other hand, is responsible for deadly silicosis as well as COPD, chronic bronchitis and lung cancer. Your Illinois employer can take steps to protect you and your co-workers, for example:

  • Establishing a plan to limit worker exposure
  • Issuing approved face masks and respirators for those exposed to toxic dust
  • Using a wet saw to prevent particles from becoming airborne
  • Avoiding using a broom or compressed air that may stir up the dust
  • Monitoring the air for permissible exposure limits of asbestos
  • Prohibiting the practices of eating, drinking or smoking around asbestos or silica contamination
  • Providing you and your coworkers with separate decontamination tents and disposable clothes

In past generations, the greed of some employers resulted in cutting corners. Consequently, workers spent years exposed to toxic dust without protection or warning of the danger. Over 17,000 workers died from lung cancer related to inhaling or ingesting toxins such as asbestos and silica. Some even unwittingly carried the poisonous dust home to their families.

If your work in the construction industry exposes you to harmful materials, you may have concerns about your health. Seeking a medical examination is a wise move so your doctor can monitor you closely for signs of asbestos- or silica-related illnesses. Consulting an attorney may also provide you with answers about your legal options.

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