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Asbestos Exposure on Plasterers


Plasterers are often involved in remodeling and renovation of older houses, apartments and commercial buildings, where asbestos building materials are concentrated. Plasterers apply plaster to ceilings and walls to make rooms more fire resistant and soundproof. The work may expose them to airborne asbestos dust in older buildings undergoing renovation. If you worked as a plasterer, you likely worked with acoustical plaster, decorative plaster or other textured coatings that contained asbestos.

Plasterers and Mesothelioma

Many building materials, including plasters, joint compounds, construction mastics, wall treatments, plastic patching compounds, sealants and textured paints and coatings, contain asbestos in varying concentrations. The asbestos may be released into the air by activities such as sanding, grinding, cutting, drilling, and fastening materials into asbestos plaster.

Research by scientists at Yale University concluded that routine maintenance tasks involving plastered surfaces have the potential to expose workers to levels of asbestos fiber that exceed the federal occupational safety limits, even when the plaster contains less than 1 percent asbestos.

Asbestos is more prevalent in older building materials. Decorative plaster containing asbestos was widely used in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. One of the most common uses of acoustical plaster in the 1960s and 1970s was to create popcorn ceilings. Removal of popcorn ceiling may release asbestos fibers into the air and allow workers to inhale the toxic fibers.

Plasterers who worked with asbestos-containing materials during earlier decades may only recently have been diagnosed with symptoms of asbestos-related disease such as asbestosis, mesothelioma or lung cancer. Also known as asbestos cancer, mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the lung or abdomen. It is a signature disease of asbestos exposure. Symptoms of mesothelioma typically do not appear for 15 to 40 years after exposure.

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