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Language Barrier Makes Asbestos More Dangerous for Hispanic Workers

Posted on December 20, 2011 to

Peter DePaolis

Earlier this month, the National Press Club held a meeting in Washington, D.C., and mesothelioma cancer in construction workers was a main topic. Specifically, there was concern that Hispanic workers might be especially at risk for mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure at work sites.

In a report at asbestos.com, a Hispanic construction worker said he saw workers exposed to asbestos that was hanging from a ceiling. He said he told his boss, but his boss showed little concern for the workers’ safety. Many of the workers do not speak English and they are not familiar with workplace safety laws. The Hispanic workers think they will lose their jobs if they report the violations, said the worker at the meeting.

The workers know there are a lot of men looking for work, so their supervisors can replace them easily if they report asbestos violations. A recent report by the Labor Occupational Health Program at UC Berkeley said that the majority of migrant workers in the construction industry do not even know what asbestos is. Employers tend to take advantage of their ignorance, said the study.

A person can be exposed to asbestos and not be diagnosed with mesothelioma for decades after the exposure. Sadly, once a diagnosis of mesothelioma is made, it is almost always fatal.

Do you know someone in the construction industry?

Koonz, McKenney, Johnson, DePaolis & Lightfoot, L.L.P.

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