The instances of lung cancer among construction workers are 50% higher than those of the general population. In a study by the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) and Duke University, researches found that around a fifth of lung cancer in construction workers was caused by hazardous materials on building sites.
There are many toxic building materials and chemicals on a jobsite. Demolition, sanding and cutting can create toxic dust which contains silica and asbestos, both known carcinogens. Silica is most often inhaled when concrete is cut. Silica is as harmful as asbestos and, when inhaled regularly, can cause silicosis which is a lung disease with no known cure. Inhaling silica can also lead to emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
OSHA estimates that around 2 million construction workers are exposed to silica every year and around 800,000 of those breathe in amounts that exceed the safety limits.
While hazardous materials do occur on most jobsites, you can easily institute measures that will ensure the safety of your crew members such as filters, wet saws and ventilation. Be aware that saws and drills can release toxic dust so institute appropriate dust control when you are working. Crew members must wear proper face masks and respirators.
Take extra precautions when working in homes that were built prior to 1980. Check for asbestos and, if you find it, get it professionally removed. The EPA has still not banned asbestos and it poses a major risk to construction workers who are five times more likely to have cancer in their lung linings and 33 times more likely to develop asbestosis.
Employers must insist that personal protective gear is worn at all times and follow OSHA guidelines to ensure their jobsites are safe. Workers must adhere to OSHA regulations to keep safe and have regular checkups with their doctors.