Stonemasons and Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma Quickly Chips Away at Health of Stonemasons

You turn rock into the most majestic of construction materials.

If you’re a quarryman, shaper, banker or carver, you might have had no exposure to asbestos as a result of your work with stone. Your risk of developing mesothelioma is likely to be low.

But if you’re a fixer, then you may have had potentially significant exposure to asbestos as a result of your work. Your risk of developing mesothelioma is likely moderate to high.

Asbestos exposure among fixer stonemasons comes from adhesives used in tying-in dressed stone pieces. It also comes from agents used in protecting the completed work against the environment. Among these supplies are:

  • Mortar

  • Grout

  • Sealants

Prior to the 1990s, it was routine to add asbestos to these materials. This was done mainly to make them more durable and better able to keep out moisture. But mortar, grout and sealants weren’t all that had asbestos added to them.

Building materials used by other trades were also enriched with asbestos. Asbestos in those products mainly provided tremendous insulation against heat and also fire protection.

Asbestos in the Air

In mortar and grout, asbestos doesn’t become dangerous until poured dry from the bag. The act of pouring dry mix invariably kicks up a cloud of dust.And contained in those clouds are fibers of asbestos. Like mortar or grout dust particles, asbestos fibers stay in the air a long time.By the 1990s, makers of mortar and grout mix had for the most part stopped putting asbestos into their products. But just because asbestos use fell off 20 years ago doesn’t mean asbestos isn’t a problem today. It is.

It’s a problem anytime you repair, remodel, renovate or demolish stonework installed before the 1990s. The asbestos in the mortar and grout from back then is waiting to be released into the air today.

All you have to do is hit the dried mortar or grout with your mallet, punch hammer, catchy hammer, chisel, abrasive spinner, angle grinder or any other tool of your trade.

The contained asbestos will escape.

The same will happen if other trades working alongside you at the project site cut, drill, hammer, grind or in any way disturb old building material products containing asbestos, such as drywall and pipes.

Airborne asbestos is bad because it’s so easy for you and everyone else in the vicinity to breathe it in or swallow it. Inside your body, asbestos has nowhere to go.

In whichever organ it settles — lungs or intestines — it stays there always. Unfortunately, asbestos in your body has the power to corrupt the healthy cells that line your lung, heart and abdomen.

This corruption takes place very slowly. Typical is 10 to 50 years. And you don’t know it’s happening until one day you discover that you have mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is what occurs at the end of the long process of asbestos corrupting your healthy cells.

Union Helps You Fight

Some stonemasons are members of the 100,000-strong International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers. This union is concerned about the impact asbestos exposure has on stonemasons and others.

You might find it useful to contact the IUBAC for information about its asbestos education programs.  You also might contact the union for information about the kind of access it provides to good quality medical care.

The reason is that fighting mesothelioma is like going to war — you have to be fully equipped for battle and willing to bear a heavy financial cost. Good medical coverage is part of that package.