Roofers and Asbestos Exposure
This page has been fact checked by an experienced mesothelioma Patient Advocate. Sources of information are listed at the bottom of the article.
We make every attempt to keep our information accurate and up-to-date.
Please Contact Us with any questions or comments.
Roofers and other construction workers have long faced asbestos exposure on the job. Some have developed mesothelioma or other asbestos illnesses and sued the manufacturers responsible. Today, many roofers still work with materials that contain asbestos.
How Was Asbestos Used in Roofing?
Many construction materials contained asbestos because of its insulating and fireproofing properties. Any building constructed before the 1970s, when the government began regulating its use, may contain asbestos. This includes asbestos shingles and other roofing components.
Manufacturers of construction products used asbestos in many things, including roofing materials. These were used in both residential and commercial buildings. Roofing products with asbestos included:
- Cement shingles
- Plastic cement
- Roofing asphalt
- Asphalt shingles
- Roofing felt
- Roof coatings
- Roof flashings
What Companies Made Asbestos Roofing Materials?
Some of the companies that made and distributed these products include:
- Johns Manville
- National Gypsum
- The Asbestos Shingle
- Slate and Sheathing Company
- Raymark Industries
Do Roofing Materials Still Contain Asbestos?
While the government has restricted asbestos in many ways, it is not banned. The U.S. does not produce asbestos, but companies can import it from other companies. Roofing materials are among the most common products still imported and used with asbestos.
Many buildings have older asbestos roof shingles and other components. These can be particularly dangerous because they may deteriorate over time. They can release asbestos fibers that put roofers and residents or workers in the building at risk of exposure.
Who Is at Risk for Asbestos Exposure and Mesothelioma?
Anyone who works in construction is at risk for asbestos exposure. It’s a particular concern for roofers because they do renovation work. They take off old roofing materials to replace them. Cutting and tearing out these materials can release asbestos fibers that roofers may inhale or ingest.
A study of construction worker mortality between 1988 and 1994 found that many have a disproportionately high risk of developing cancer. The study specifically called out roofers as being at risk of cancer. The researchers concluded that asbestos contributed to this and that workers are at risk for mesothelioma and lung cancer.
Another study looked at a corrugated asbestos cement roof to determine how it decayed over time and if it posed risks. Researchers found that the 60-year-old roof’s weathering exposed asbestos fibers. They also found asbestos in water runoff and in moss growing on the roof. Any workers tackling a roof like that could be exposed to asbestos.
How Does the Government Regulate Asbestos in Roofing?
The U.S. has not banned asbestos., but laws protect workers and limit its use. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates asbestos exposure rates through laws like the Clean Air Act and the Asbestos National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP).
NESHAP rules apply to the demolition and renovation of buildings to limit worker exposure to asbestos fibers. Unfortunately for roofers and other construction workers, a 1995 clarification from the EPA stated that most residential demolitions and projects are exempt from the rule. This means roofers on residential homes are not necessarily protected by this law.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also protects workers. In 1994, the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) petitioned OSHA to revise asbestos standards in construction. The NRCA did not feel the existing rules went far enough to protect workers. The petition resulted in several changes:
- Before work begins, someone trained in asbestos identification must inspect the site and ensure the materials are intact.
- Asbestos roofing materials removed from a building cannot be dropped to the ground. They must be lowered slowly or securely.
- The asbestos material cannot be sanded or abraded.
- If a power cutter must be used on the roof, workers must use a HEPA dust collector to trap fibers.
Asbestos and Mesothelioma Lawsuits Involving Roofers
A case study published in 2021 described a 73-year-old man with metastatic mesothelioma. He worked as a roofer during his career and later received a diagnosis of pleural mesothelioma. The cancer spread and metastasized to his scalp. Mesothelioma has a decades-long latency period, and many people like this man receive diagnoses after years of workplace asbestos exposure.
Many construction and roofing workers like this man seek compensation for the harm caused by exposure. Stephen Jackson filed a lawsuit in 2017 against several companies, including Henry Company. Henry made several asbestos-containing roofing materials that Jackson used during his career as a roofer.
Jackson passed away from mesothelioma, but his widow continued the legal fight. Henry attempted to get a summary judgment and have the case dismissed, but a New York justice denied the request. The justice felt she had enough evidence to make a case.
Should Homeowners Be Worried About Asbestos in Roofing?
Most homeowners are encouraged to get a new roof every 15 to 30 years, depending on the materials. This means that most homes today should not have an asbestos roof.
This is not always the case, though, and homeowners should always be cautious if attempting any DIY repairs or renovations. The best way to find out if your roof has asbestos is to contact an asbestos professional for an assessment. They can also tell you if you need to have the materials removed or if they are safe in place.
If you don’t have roofing materials checked by a professional but decide to go ahead with work, treat them as if they do have asbestos. By taking appropriate safety precautions, you can be sure you minimize or eliminate exposure.
How Can I Get Compensation for Mesothelioma as a Roofer?
If you worked as a roofer and now have an asbestos-related illness like mesothelioma, you have options for recovering damages. It can be difficult to pinpoint exactly which companies are negligent for exposure. An experienced mesothelioma lawyer can be a big help.
They can track down your past exposure. There are likely to be several companies that made roofing materials with asbestos that you can hold accountable. If a company went through bankruptcy, it might have a trust you can access for compensation.
For those companies still operating, you may be able to file a lawsuit. An asbestos lawyer can explain your options and use their experience and networks to find out who you can sue. They can estimate the damages you’re likely to recover and take you through the entire process.
Roofing workers have been at risk of asbestos exposure in the past and still are today. If you worked in this industry, talk to your doctor about cancer screenings. Contact a lawyer if you get a diagnosis of mesothelioma or a related illness.Get Your FREE Mesothelioma Packet
Page Written by Mary Ellen Ellis
Mary Ellen Ellis has been the head writer for Mesothelioma.net since 2016. With hundreds of mesothelioma and asbestos articles to her credit, she is one of the most experienced writers on these topics. Her degrees and background in science and education help her explain complicated medical topics for a wider audience. Mary Ellen takes pride in providing her readers with the critical information they need following a diagnosis of an asbestos-related illness.
Page Edited by Patient Advocate Dave Foster
Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available.