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Painters and Asbestos Exposure

Painters frequently work in older buildings undergoing renovation and remodeling. Many of these buildings contain asbestos.  Remodeling and renovation activities can disturb asbestos insulation and other asbestos-containing materials and release asbestos dust into the air. Inhaling airborne asbestos dust can cause serious respiratory disease, including mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs and abdomen.

Painters and Mesothelioma

Professional painters may be exposed to asbestos dust during the removal of old layers of paint and caulk from older houses and commercial buildings. Until the late 1970s, many building products, including paints, spray paints, textured paints, caulks, spackling and joint compounds, contained asbestos as an additive because of its heat resistance properties. Sanding, scraping, taping and patching can release fine particles of asbestos dust into the air.

A large study of nearly 57,000 painters, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, found that painters had increased incidence of asbestosis, a chronic scarring of the lungs caused by inhalation of asbestos.

Many painters do not wear masks to prevent breathing of asbestos dust. Microscopic particles of asbestos may lodge in a painter’s lungs and remain there for decades, causing inflammation that eventually develops into malignant cancer. Symptoms of mesothelioma often do not appear for decades after exposure. Painters who worked around asbestos in the 1960s and 1970s may only recently have begun experiencing respiratory symptoms and been diagnosed with mesothelioma.