Brick and stone masons create magnificent buildings by cementing natural stone or manufactured bricks into place. Unfortunately, this cement often contains asbestos, exposing these craftsmen to a substance that is now known to be extraordinarily dangerous.
Mesothelioma and Brick and Stone Masons Explained
Brick and stone masons are talented craftsmen, working with stones or bricks to create buildings and other structures. Masons’ materials are carefully selected to stand the test of time, and materials that are hardy and inexpensive are always favored. Unfortunately, it has since been discovered that one of those favored materials has a deadly side effect.
Asbestos cement was a common ingredient in masons’ mortar. The asbestos that was used to make cement more pliable and less likely to crack has since been linked to mesothelioma, a cancer that develops after asbestos fibers are inhaled or absorbed into the body.
The cement used by brick and stone masons in the past often contained up to 10% asbestos, exposing brick and stone masons to these fibers every day.
In addition, brick and stone masons were often in close quarters to other tradespeople and construction workers who would have regularly worked with unprotected asbestos-containing materials.
History of Brick and Stone Masons
Brick and stone masons have been around since the ancient times, although the details of their job have evolved. Where masons once used clay and mud to create buildings, they now use stone, brick and mortar to build their life’s works.
Brick and stone masons perform two separate jobs:
- Brick masons, or bricklayers, work with manufactured bricks. These talented individuals create homes and buildings using brick and mortar.
- Stone masons work with other types of natural and manufactured stone. Stone masons often become experts in natural stones like granite, limestone and quartz, as well as manufactured stone such as concrete.
Almost as important as the bricks and stones is the cement that holds them together. Cement, as we know it today, has been used since the early 1900s, and asbestos as a cement ingredient followed not long after.
Asbestos helped prevent cracks and made it easier to create high-quality masonry, and was therefore in the powder mixes used by masons.
Opening the bags and mixing the mortar would then propel asbestos fibers into the air, where they could be accidentally inhaled.
It wasn’t until the late 1980s that health and safety regulations were imposed, stating that asbestos was no longer allowed to be added to cement. At this point, asbestos was removed as an ingredient in cement and mortar mixes, but many masons already had years of accidental exposure to asbestos fibers.
Highest Risk Jobs for Brick and Stone Masons
Brick and stone masons who worked with asbestos-containing mortar are at risk of developing mesothelioma due to their regular exposure. It’s each mason’s tasks and length of exposure that determines their likelihood of a mesothelioma diagnosis later in life.
Unfortunately, mesothelioma has an extended latency period, often remaining benign for 10-50 years before it develops into cancer. In some cases, masons who have long retired from the profession are only just being diagnosed with mesothelioma now.
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Exposure Through Asbestos Cement
Asbestos cement in masonry mortar was the most common way for a brick or stone mason to become exposed to asbestos, but it wasn’t the only way. Asbestos was used heavily throughout construction sites because it had many desirable qualities.
Everything from insulation and roof tiles to epoxies and glues contained asbestos before the health impacts were known. Therefore, just being on a construction site may have exposed stone and brick masons to asbestos fibers.
Asbestos Exposure Still a Concern for Brick and Stone Masons
Asbestos exposure is still a significant concern for brick and stone masons. People working on buildings built before the 1990s may come into direct contact with asbestos and inhale the fibers. Masons who sand, cut, remove or otherwise disturb the mortar (or other asbestos-containing materials used in buildings) are at risk of asbestos exposure.
It is critical that all tradespeople working on older homes today are adequately trained in asbestos management and take all necessary precautions against asbestos exposure.
Brick and Stone Masons and Asbestos Lawsuits
People are fighting against the unfair consequences of asbestos exposure. Brick and stone masons who have been exposed to asbestos and develop mesothelioma have successfully won lawsuits to compensate for their pain and inconvenience. If you are one of the many people who has been negatively impacted by asbestos exposure, you should seek legal counsel.
Many states have imposed strict statutes of limitation to keep their mesothelioma caseloads manageable. It’s not uncommon for victims to only have a couple of years after a formal diagnosis to make their case. Therefore, anyone who has developed mesothelioma should contact a lawyer quickly.
Even if you don’t pursue legal action at this point, it can be reassuring to know what your options are. If you were a veteran who has since developed mesothelioma, you may have rights to VA benefits. Contact our VA-Accredited Claims Agents today.