Roofers often sprayed asbestos-contaminated asphalt cutback or asphalt emulsions onto finished roofs. They also tore up old asbestos roof flashings as they installed new ones.
A number of asbestos roof products posed health risks for roofers including roof shingles, tar paper and underlayment. When roofers cut or shaped these materials before laying them into place, they exposed themselves and others on the work site to asbestos fibers.
Roofers regularly worked around other tradesmen such as carpenters, insulators and drywall finishers, who used asbestos materials. Asbestos building materials used by these tradesmen included, but were not limited to, joint compound, siding, floor tiles and ceiling tiles.
Aged and worn down asbestos shingles and construction materials continue to pose serious exposure hazards for roofers – especially during roof removal. When the old roof materials and flashing are torn away, asbestos fibers can be disturbed, released into the air and inhaled by roofers. One study suggested that around 30 percent of roofing workers who handled asbestos also faced air concentrations above the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) permissible limit.
It is also possible for roofers to carry asbestos fibers home on their work clothes, exposing their families to the dangerous fibers as well. When fibers are inhaled, they can lodge in the outer tissue lining of the lungs and abdomen. In some cases, this can lead to mesothelioma.