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Covid and a health worker

Asbestos Workers at Higher Risk for COVID -19 Complications

Covid and a health worker

Asbestos abatement workers have been essential long before the COVID -19 pandemic hit. Since then and the subsequent lockdown, many cities have been accelerating construction work due to the closures of many public spaces, and property owners are taking advantage of the extra time at home to perform renovations. While asbestos abatement jobs are in high demand, the workers themselves have a much higher risk of severe complications if they were to be diagnosed with COVID -19.

According to NIOSH, some of the riskiest industries for occupational health in the United States are ones that involve exposure to asbestos. Even low exposures to asbestos can cause severe health problems such as chronic shortness of breath, pulmonary fibrosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma, a form of cancer caused only by exposure to asbestos. Those already diagnosed with an asbestos related disease or breathing problems are at the highest risk for developing severe complications if contracting the virus.

Marcelo Crespo, an abatement worker in New York City, states that this past April colleagues and friends were sharing news of other abatement workers deaths from COVID -19 nearly every day.

Workers are supposed to wear masks but the more protective the mask, the more difficult it can be to breathe. This can lead to cardio-respiratory strain which causes the heart rate to increase which could lead to heart attack. You may see workers wearing those little white medical masks, which do absolutely nothing to protect from the inhalation of asbestos fibers. Contractors and workers will at times overlook safety regulations to get the job done faster.

Crespo hopes to one day find a new line of work and is taking evening classes. He would like to help others find a way out of the business as well, but with the high unemployment rate especially now it seems near impossible. Many workers know the risks but continue to do the work for the guarantee of a steady income.

Crespo says the threat of contracting coronavirus doesn’t scare him that much, because he’s already used to worrying about his health from asbestos exposure.

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