Cement and Brick Masons: Asbestos Exposure and Mesothelioma
For decades masons worked with cement and bricks that contained asbestos, a cancer-causing mineral fiber. Workers would be exposed in many ways on worksites. After years or decades, some would develop mesothelioma, a treatable but incurable malignancy. Those with the disease, or family members of those who died because of it, may be able to collect compensation for their trauma.
What Do Cement and Brick Masons Do?
A brick mason is a construction professional using brick, stone, concrete blocks, mortar, and tile on the interior and exterior of residential, commercial, and industrial buildings. They may tear down and rebuild structures to renovate or create new ones.
How Would a Mason Be Exposed to Asbestos?
Asbestos was frequently an ingredient in the dry powder that was mixed with water to create water or cement from 1920 to 1980. It may come mixed in with the powder, or the mason might add fibers on the job site.
Asbestos was used because it was cheap, added strength, and was heat-resistant. It would be especially useful when bricks and mortar were exposed to high heat because of a furnace, or the structure was part of an oven or kiln. Asbestos may also be a brick ingredient.
Asbestos fibers are dangerous when they’re released into the air and inhaled. They may get into the lungs where, over years or decades, they may cause cells to mutate and become cancerous. Pleural mesothelioma is an asbestos-related cancer of the pleura, a membrane that lines the lungs and chest cavity.
Fibers would be in the workspace when:
- Asbestos-containing dry cement was mixed with water
- Asbestos was added to a dry cement mix
- Existing asbestos-containing cement was chipped away or sanded
- Asbestos-containing bricks were sawed into pieces or chipped away with hammers
- Other trades on a work site used asbestos-containing products, releasing fibers in the air. They might be steam pipe insulation, valve packing, floor tiles, wallboards, joint compound, or fireproofing
The exposure often continued after work, when masons traveled home in work clothes covered in asbestos fibers, which they may breathe in while going home. These dirty clothes could also endanger those living with them.
What Are the Dangers of Asbestos Exposure to Masons?
If enough fibers are inhaled into the lungs they cause scar tissue, and the person’s ability to breathe is affected (asbestosis). Masons who breathed in asbestos have an increased risk of lung cancer, especially if they smoke. Decades may pass before asbestos fibers impact the:
- Pleura: A membrane covering the lungs and chest cavity, causing pleural mesothelioma
- Peritoneum: Another membrane covering organs and the abdominal cavity, resulting in peritoneal mesothelioma
- Pericardium: The heart’s lining, causing peritoneal mesothelioma
One of the many sources of asbestos exposure for masons was asbestos-containing cement. A study of the impact of cancer and mesothelioma on workers in an Italian cement factory was published in 2020. The plant operated from 1932 to 1993. It was the second-largest asbestos-containing cement plant in the country while it operated. The study authors state the plant had a “high impact” on the community’s health.
Researchers considered the population in the towns surrounding the plant and compared it with national health statistics. Researchers looked at 2012 plant workers. They found 218 people had pleural mesothelioma and 11 had peritoneal mesothelioma. If the mesothelioma rate in the area was consistent with the national average, only 24 people would’ve developed the conditions.
How Harmful is Mesothelioma?
The life expectancy of someone diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma depends on several issues, including the type and location of the disease, its stage, and the person’s overall health.
Survival rates are generally four to 18 months after diagnosis, though a few people have lived longer than ten years after diagnosis, according to the Abramson Cancer Center.
The five-year survival rate for pleural mesothelioma is ten percent, though that’s getting better over time as treatment and how well medical science understands the disease improves. Very few patients go into remission (no signs of cancer), but many of those treated for mesothelioma can extend and improve the quality of their lives.
In a 2013 article in the European Journal of Cancer, researchers discussed the survival rates of 108 patients treated for peritoneal mesothelioma. They found 43.6% survived for seven or more years after treatment.
Call Us Today For A Free Consultation
If you or a loved one worked as a brick and cement mason and has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, Satterley & Kelley attorneys can answer your questions, advise you of your rights to compensation, and discuss the necessary steps to protect them. You can reach our Louisville office by calling 502-589-5600 or toll-free at 800-655-2117. You can also fill out our contact form to schedule a free initial consultation.