Mesothelioma in Draftsmen

Quick Summary

Draftsmen (sometimes known as ‘drafters’) are responsible for drawing up architect’s plans according to specifications. As the drawings are highly technical, this requires the drafters to visit sites themselves and work alongside builders to ensure that the projects go according to plan. Unfortunately this role exposed some drafters to asbestos.

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Mesothelioma and Draftsmen Explained

Being a draftsman might sound like a desk-based occupation, but it frequently takes them to constructions sites—both above and below ground. While they may not do any of the building work themselves or come into contact with equipment, they do work in extreme environments with little to no safety equipment.

Construction work disturbs asbestos insulation within the walls of old buildings or underground, which can cause the fibers to disperse and become airborne. Tiny asbestos fibers are detrimental when inhaled or ingested and can create a rare form of cancer called mesothelioma.

Many treatments can lessen the effects of mesothelioma provided the patient receives an early diagnosis. At present, there is no known cure for the disease.

History of Asbestos Exposure in Draftsmen

Draftsmen do not directly work on construction sites, but they do oversee projects (such as the shop refits, building construction and shipbuilding), which may have used asbestos. Compared to tradesmen such as carpenters, construction workers and shipyard workers, draftsmen are statistically at a lower risk of developing mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma symptoms often develop in the later stages of the disease, and include heavy breathing, a chest cough, and weight loss. This rare form of cancer can go undiagnosed for years.

Did you know?

Medium and low-risk occupations for asbestos exposure, like drafters, still have a significant chance of exposure.


One of the most common ways in which draftsmen were exposed to asbestos was working in mines. This kind of cramped environment has no through-airflow. If fibers are disturbed, they can circulate in these small, confined spaces.

Drafters would visit the mines to observe the building work and check that it complied with the plans. Until the 1970s, there were no health and safety procedures in place or specific equipment to be worn.

Historic Buildings

Any kind of construction site could be dangerous to drafters, especially if working on historic buildings where asbestos in the walls could become disturbed. The tiny fibers are impossible to stop once they become airborne. Today we are aware of the risks, and there are regulations to reduce the risks of asbestos exposure in draftsmen.


Draftsmen are sometimes required to be present at demolition sites, which are a prominent area for asbestos to be released into the air. What’s more dangerous for drafters is that they usually wear their own clothing on-site.

If draftsmen are working on a site that contains asbestos, these fibers can cling to their clothes and shoes and be carried back to their car, office and home.

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Highest Risk Worksites for Asbestos Exposure in Draftsmen

Although draftsmen don’t work with asbestos-containing tools and equipment, several industries are known to contain more asbestos than others.

High-risk areas for asbestos exposure in draftsmen include:

  • Mining: Ground excavation can often uncover natural asbestos deposits, which can easily get into the airways due to the lack of ventilation.
  • Construction: Working on building sites means that draftsmen can be exposed to asbestos-containing materials including insulation, flooring, roofing and tiling.
  • Shipbuilding: Building ships was a major industry in the 1940s when asbestos was used widely as an insulating material. Even as bystanders, draftsmen were as much at-risk as those physically building the ships.

There are many laws today that protect draftsmen from being exposed to asbestos. Safety clothing is required when they enter hazardous sites, such as demolition zones. Plastic covers are usually worn over shoes to avoid the spread of any toxic fibers once they leave the site. Face masks and breathing equipment are required for safely entering mines.

Draftsmen and Asbestos Lawsuits

Draftsmen who develop mesothelioma will, most likely, have worked on multiple sites that contained asbestos during their lifetime. They spend less time than builders do on-site, so it can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint when and where they were exposed.

By seeking the legal advice of a mesothelioma lawyer, you can get help locating the sites where you would have been exposed. In this case, you may be able to file a lawsuit.

Statutes of limitations on asbestos claims vary per state, but an injury lawsuit can usually be filed 1-3 years from diagnosis. Typically, a lawsuit for wrongful death can be submitted by the family 1-3 years after death.

With mesothelioma, it is essential that you seek professional guidance as soon as you can to start the process. Compensation can help with medical bills and lost earnings. If you were a veteran who has since developed mesothelioma, you may also be eligible to file VA claims.


Veterans Support Team
Christopher Dryfoos PhotoWritten by:

Contributing Author

Christopher Dryfoos is a journalist and member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). As the grandson of the U.S. Navy’s first forensic pathologist, he aims to help veterans with mesothelioma access needed care.

View Sources

Get Reading, "Asbestos link to draftsman death." Retrieved from: Accessed on March 30, 2018.

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