Sheet metal workers have high risk of mesothelioma

Another occupation – sheet metal worker – has been added to the list of occupations affected by exposure to asbestos-containing materials. Asbestos has long been recognized as the principal cause of a rare lung cancer known as mesothelioma. The disease commonly afflicts persons who have come in contact with airborne asbestos fibers in their workplace. In North Carolina, those occupations include shipyard workers, heating insulation installers, and textile workers. A recent study has now added sheet metal workers to this list.

A recently completed study of 17,000 sheet metal workers made over 24 years shows that such workers are far more likely to die of mesothelioma than members of the general public. Sheet metal workers typically do not use any asbestos-containing materials in their workplace, but many such workers perform their jobs in close proximity to such products, especially on construction projects. Examples of such products are roofing, siding, HVAC systems, hot water boilers and pipes and other industrial equipment. Sheet metal workers are often required to drill, hammer, punch or rivet asbestos-containing products in order to attach sheet metal. These activities release asbestos fibers that are inhaled by the sheet metal worker. These fibers lodge in the lungs and many years later cause mesothelioma, a cancer with an especially high mortality rate.

The study looked at 17,345 sheet metal workers who spent more than 20 years in the trade and traced the causes of death. One of the physicians who conducted the study said that showed “significant excess mortality” for mesothelioma and asbestosis. The study was conducted by the Center for Construction Research and Training in collaboration with the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at Duke University.

Persons who have mesothelioma symptoms, or the families of workers who have died from the disease, should consult an attorney experienced in handling asbestos cases. As this study shows, even workers who never touched asbestos directly may have a claim for damages based on indirect exposure to this very toxic product.

Source: Surviving Mesothelioma, “Mesothelioma Risk High For Sheet Metal Workers,” Alex Strauss, Feb. 27, 2015