Renovation and Demolition Workers at High Risk of Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos can be present in older building materials of many types and can be released when disturbed in later remedial construction.

Asbestos was used for decades in many construction materials present in residential and commercial buildings. Nowadays, microscopic asbestos fibers can be released from those materials during home, commercial and public building renovations and demolitions. The deadly fibers can be inhaled by both unprotected workers and unknowing bystanders alike.

Toronto’s The Globe and Mail produced an outstanding expose on the Canadian asbestos problem that features the nightmarish story of the manager of a Canadian convention center exposed to asbestos in his office during nearby renovations. Asbestos was removed from ceiling and wall materials that generated airborne asbestos that entered the ventilation system.

The renovation workers wore protective suits, but no protection was given to the manager and he was not advised to leave the premises. He now has advanced mesothelioma, a fatal asbestos-caused cancer of the lining of the lungs and other organs.

This story is typical of asbestos exposure from renovation and demolition work, not only in Canada, but also in the U.S. When proper testing of building materials is not done to identify asbestos before work begins, renovation can work can release fibers that harm unprotected workers and others on the premises.

Similarly, stories have surfaced in the media of such work being done in schools without first removing students, staff and teachers.

The Globe and Mail shares statistics from Canadian workers’ compensation claims showing that for several recent years, claims for work-related deaths were top-heavy with those from mesothelioma. Examples of the kinds of workers who can be exposed in renovation and demolition work include construction workers, laborers, electricians, HVAC workers, plumbers, carpenters and more.

Some of the (mostly older, but not all) building materials and equipment that could have contained asbestos that can be disturbed in renovation or demolition are insulation of all kinds, pipe coverings, cement, boilers, valves, steam pipes, drywall, plaster, tile, flooring, fireproofing, joint and spackling compounds, gaskets, patching compounds, pipes, wall tapes and texturing, plumbing fillers, wire insulation and more.

Federal law has safety requirements for asbestos inspection and containment in renovation and demolition work, but whether all contractors are aware and compliant is another question. In addition, asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma, asbestosis or lung cancer that are showing up in renovation and demolition workers could have been caused by work done decades ago, since the diseases can be latent for that long.

If you or a loved one is experiencing an asbestos-related disease that could be related to renovation or demolition work, speak with an attorney who has specific and extensive experience with asbestos injury claims to understand what legal rights you may have, such as a personal injury lawsuit. If your loved one has died in such circumstances, seek advice about a possible wrongful death claim.

With offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and Portland, the lawyers at Brayton Purcell, L.L.P., represent asbestos victims and their families in advocating for justice on the West Coast and across the country.