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One of the most deadly hazards roofers encounter is invisible. Asbestos was added to roofing shingles and tiles, exposing roofers to the carcinogen daily. When roofers inhaled asbestos fibers, they put themselves at risk for developing diseases as serious as cancer.

Fact-Checked and Updated by: Jenna Tozzi, RN

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Roofers and Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos was used in many products in the 20th century due to its superior abilities as a lightweight, durable, inexpensive, insulating, and fireproofing material. Rather ironically, it was incorporated into roofing products to make them safer.

Roofers working with new materials are not likely to encounter asbestos. However, those working to maintain or demolish roofs are still at risk of exposure to the potentially deadly material.

Did You Know?

The dangers of asbestos have been public knowledge since the mid-70s. As a result, most asbestos-containing roofing products were phased out of the market by the late 1980s. By the year 2000, all roofing products on the American market were asbestos-free.

Some older products known to include asbestos include:

  • AAA hip and ridge shingles
  • Careystone corrugated roofing
  • Externit asbestos shingles
  • Fire-chex ‘325’ shingles
  • Flintcoat roofing
  • Johns-Manville Blak-Kap duplex roofing

All roofing materials that contain asbestos are an immediate hazard to workers. Asbestos-containing products can be separated into 2 categories:

  1. Friable: When a material is friable, it easily breaks apart or disintegrates. They are much more likely to produce airborne asbestos fibers, putting nearby workers at risk of inhalation and ingestion.
  2. Non-Friable: Non-friable materials are more stable than friable asbestos products. However, if non-friable materials are damaged during demolition, excessive wear or bad weather, the asbestos fibers can still become airborne.

Some examples of friable roofing materials include:

  • Niccolite (often used under wood shingles)
  • Pipe insulation in roof spaces
  • Roof paper
  • Silver roof paint
  • Sprayed insulation

Some examples of non-friable materials include:

  • Caulking
  • CAV or transite
  • Cement roofing and paneling
  • Felt paper
  • Mastics
  • Patch compounds

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Roofers Roles and Responsibilities

Most roofing professionals are self-employed or work for small roofing businesses. Around a third of roofers work for larger construction firms.

Roofing is a hazardous job. On a daily basis, roofers encounter risk from obvious dangers such as heights, extreme hot and cold temperatures, noise, vibration, power tools, flames from equipment, and electrical wires.

Roofing material components range depending on the structure, the budget and the individual taste of the builder.

Some common materials used by roofing tradespeople include:

  • Asphalt shingles
  • Mastic
  • Roofing, asphalts, felts, and putty
  • Shingles

Additionally, a roofer will usually work with other materials, like putties and sprays, which help to:

  • Bind the materials
  • Insulate the structure
  • Seal out moisture and air
  • Soundproof the structure

Depending on the project, a roofer might work on residential homes or larger projects like commercial and industrial buildings. Roofers might also clean, maintain, or demolish older roofs.

Roofers and Mesothelioma

Because roofers were heavily exposed to asbestos throughout their careers, many of them have gone on to develop mesothelioma due to their exposure to such a toxic substance.

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer caused when asbestos fibers enter the body and become embedded in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart. 20-50 years can pass before the fibers begin to cause health problems.

Roofers exposed to asbestos years earlier might eventually start to experience mesothelioma signs and symptoms such as:

  • Chest pain
  • Chronic phlegm
  • Persistent coughing
  • Shortness of breath

Roofers suffering from any of the above symptoms should advise their doctors of their history of working with asbestos and be properly diagnosed. Detecting mesothelioma early can significantly increase available treatment options and improve your prognosis.

Compensation for Roofers

Countless roofers were unknowingly exposed to toxic levels of asbestos daily while conducting their jobs.

Workers who have since developed mesothelioma as a result of their workplace exposure to asbestos may now qualify for legal compensation paid by negligent asbestos product manufacturers.

If you worked as a roofer and have since developed an asbestos-related disease, such as mesothelioma, you may be eligible for compensation.

Contact our Justice Support Team today to learn more about taking legal action and the next steps towards receiving compensation to help cover your treatment costs. Our team can connect you with important legal and medical resources. Get a free case review today.

Jenna TozziWritten by:

Director of Patient Advocacy

Jenna Tozzi, RN, is the Director of Patient Advocacy at Mesothelioma Hope. With more than 15 years of experience as an adult and pediatric oncology nurse navigator, Jenna provides exceptional guidance and support to mesothelioma patients and their loved ones. Jenna has been featured in Oncology Nursing News and is a member of the Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators & the American Nurses Association.

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  1. British Occupational Health Safety The Chartered Society for Worker Health Protection, “Controlling Exposures to Prevent Occupational Lung Disease in the Construction Industry” Retrieved from Accessed on July 12, 2018

  2. Infrastructure Health and Safety Association Labour Management Network, “Occupational Health Risks: Roofers” Retrieved from Accessed on July 12, 2018

  3. International Hazard Data Sheets on Occupation, “Roofer: Non-Metal” Retrieved from—ed_protect/—protrav/—safework/documents/publication/wcms_191025.pdf Accessed on July 12, 2018

  4. State of Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, “Asbestos Information for Roofing Contractors” Retrieved from Accessed on July 12, 2018

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