The Link Between Union Work & Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos exposure is not restricted to a specific age, gender, class, or occupation: This toxic and carcinogenic mineral has affected millions of Americans from every area of the country, due to its unchecked use in building construction prior to 1979. However, an increasing body of evidence shows some occupations are exposed to asbestos more frequently than others. Between the years of 1940 and 1979, it’s estimated that more than 27.5 million employees in various industries were exposed to asbestos fibers – and the vast majority of these were union workers in industrial occupations. In fact, union workers today are still some of the most likely victims of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.

Why Do Union Jobs Expose Workers to Asbestos?

Many occupations are unionized, from public school teachers to restaurant workers. It’s not a coincidence, however, that the jobs with the longest history of trade unions are typically industrial ones, because of the severe physical hazards industrial workers face on a day-to-day basis. This is the true root of the connection between unionized work and asbestos exposure, as industrial roles were routinely exposed to asbestos throughout the last century.

Unions aren’t unaware of the problem. On the contrary, union leaders were the first to lead the charge against asbestos, informing employees about the health risks and using their resources to support the injured. Back in the 40’s and 50’s, it was common for companies to cover up mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases, by paying off their sick employees and forcing them to hide the truth from their friends and families. Labor unions like the AFL-CIO, along with the United Steel Workers, exposed corporate cover-up attempts and brought corporate negligence into the light. These and other trade unions bravely rallied against the threat of asbestos exposure, even when the companies responsible attempted to sweep it under the rug.

Which Occupations Face the Highest Risks of Mesothelioma?

Although trade unions have worked hard to limit the risks of asbestos exposure, for many the damage has already been done. Asbestos was used as a flame retardant and insulator in thousands of consumer products and building projects, and to this day, it has still not been fully banned by the EPA. Once inhaled or ingested, the asbestos fibers present in building sites and shipyards began to coat worker’s lungs and other organ systems, eventually causing mesothelioma and asbestosis. Because it can take up to 50 years for mesothelioma symptoms to surface, some older industrial workers are only now realizing the extent of the impact on their health.

Historically, the industrial occupations most affected by the threat of asbestos have included:

  • Auto mechanics and repair workers
  • House painters and roofers
  • Electricians, plumbers, and other utility workers
  • Iron workers
  • Transportation workers
  • Firefighters and first responders
  • Metal workers
  • Auto manufacturers
  • Construction workers
  • Power plant workers
  • Military personnel and army veterans
  • Shipyard and dock workers

Have You Been Injured by Asbestos Exposure? Contact Us Today.

If, like millions of Americans, you’ve worked in one of these industrial occupations, you may be at risk of developing mesothelioma. At Sharder & Associates L.L.P., our mesothelioma lawyers have dealt with thousands of cases where dedicated union workers were continually exposed to asbestos at the expense of their health, and ultimately, their lives. We believe companies should be held accountable for negligence once mesothelioma has been diagnosed, and to that end we’ve helped our clients receive millions of dollars in settlements for asbestos cases.

If you’ve been affected by asbestos exposure, contact us today for a free consultation. Our nationally-recognized attorneys can fight for the closure and compensation you deserve in the wake of your diagnosis.

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