Bricklayers, also referred to as brickmasons or blockmasons, spend their workdays laying and binding building materials such as brick, structural tile, concrete blocks, cinder blocks and more. Bricklaying is difficult work, and for more reasons than one. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), of the 11 million workers in the construction industry in the European Union from the years 1990 to 1993 (including bricklayers), it was estimated that more than half were exposed to carcinogenic agents – in particular crystalline silica in the form of quartz dust (19 percent of the workforce exposed), followed by diesel fumes (6 percent) and asbestos (5 percent).
Bricklayers do more than just build brick buildings. They work in steel mills, auto plants, refineries, aircraft manufacturing facilities, tool and die operations, heavy equipment and metal manufacturers, foundries and other industrial sites. In these industrial settings, bricklayers are responsible for installing and repairing walls, chimney stacks and the linings of industrial furnaces, ovens, heaters, glass tanks, boilers and other pieces of high-heat machinery and equipment.
It’s those facilities and those pieces of equipment that contained asbestos fibers and put many bricklayers – and their families through secondhand exposure – at risk for mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.