A new study in Sweden suggests that thousands of construction workers may be at higher risk for pleural mesothelioma, even if they did not always work in jobs that are usually associated with higher exposure to asbestos. The authors of the study believe that total protection for these workers might not be possible.
The study focused on construction workers in Sweden who had health exams between 1971 and 1993. There were 400,000 workers in the analysis, and there were a total of 420 cases of the disease from 1972 to 2009. As expected the highest rate of mesothelioma was among those who work close to some form of asbestos. But even though those workers had higher rates of the disease than the public overall, they accounted for just 20% of the mesothelioma cases in the clinical study.
There also were very high numbers of cases among people who worked with concrete and wood. Other groups with high levels of the cancer were painters, foremen and electricians.
Many of the cases of the disease were in jobs that have asbestos exposure, but cancer in other types of workers in the building trade shows that protecting all workers near asbestos may be impossible.
The study suggests that many railroad workers as well may be at higher risk for this rare cancer, even if they were not directly exposed to asbestos in their daily jobs.
In fact, in our work as lawyers on mesothelioma cases in Virginia, we have seen that the victims of this devastating cancer are not just workers on railroad tracks. We have seen cases of the disease that include brakemen, engineers, iron workers, mechanics, switchmen and conductors. While railroad companies often try to drag out legal claims in such cases, we have been successful in winning large settlements for the families of many of these workers.