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Sawyers and Asbestos Exposure

Sawyers and Exposed Asbestos

History of the Sawyer Trade

Prior to the 1900's Sawyers were highly skilled carpenters that worked with saws to create wooden planks out of logs. They were frequently sought after for new home construction and other smaller construction jobs. At the beginning of the twentieth century, technological break-throughs required a group of trades people to specialize in cutting stone. Sawyers took on that function while carpenters were known as trades people who worked mainly with wood. Sawyers primarily focused on cutting concrete, stone, and asbestos-cement sheet and insulated pipes to be used in new building development efforts.

Sawyers are Frequently Exposed to Asbestos on the Job

Sawyers were at serious occupational risk for inhaling dangerous asbestos fibers while performing their job up until the mid to late 1970's. Their primary job function was to saw and cut concrete slabs, stone, asbestos cement sheets and insulated pipes. In the sawing process, harmful dust was generated in large quantities. Asbestos was a favored form of insulating material used in the early to late twentieth century because it possessed superior heat and fire resistant properties. It was also inexpensive. Unfortunately it was later found to cause cancer and other pulmonary disease in individuals who sustained extended exposure to airborne asbestos particles.

As sawyers performed their jobs of cutting materials that contained asbestos, the asbestos dust and fibers were released into the air. If the proper protective gear, such as a respirator and mask, was not worn the workers were susceptible to inhaling the harmful dust. Most sawyers were not aware of the risks they faced. Recent changes in safety rules have mandated the use of water when cutting stone to avoid the creation of unhealthy dust, but sawyers still have the potential to be placed at high risk on the job.

Asbestos use has been significantly reduced if not eliminated since the mid 1970's to early 1980's. Because it was used so extensively in building construction prior to that time, however, renovation or demolition efforts on older structures must be carefully executed and monitored and asbestos abatement protocol followed where necessary. The risk of asbestos exposure in those situations can be extremely high.

Mesothelioma, Asbestosis and Lung Cancer and are Frequently Diagnosed in Sawyers

The link between asbestos exposure and pulmonary disease was discovered in the mid 70's. At that time it was quickly discovered that blue collar workers, especially, faced occupational risks that resulted in their sustaining extended asbestos exposure. In addition, their families were also placed at risk for second hand exposure because they would bring asbestos fibers home on clothes, shoes and hair.

It is not uncommon for these illnesses to take many years to show up. lung cancer may take up to ten years to show signs after initial asbestos exposure and mesothelioma and asbestosis can take anywhere from thirty to forty years to manifest. Of course there are also instances where a disease can develop more quickly but it is more common to see a longer latency period. The usual symptoms to look for are changes in the ability to breathe, pain in the chest area, persistent cough with bloody sputum at times. The mesothelioma prognosis is not generally favorable.

Author: Linda Molinari

Editor in Chief, Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance

Linda Molinari
Mesothelioma Treatment Guide

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