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Understanding the risks of hot asphalt fumes

United Asphalts  Hot Asphalt Fumes
April 4, 2024 at 3:00 a.m.

By Jonny Suchor. 

Assessing cancer risks and protective measures in the asphalt roofing industry. 

Concerns surrounding the potential cancer risks of working with hot asphalt and being exposed to the fumes have long been debated. However, the recent quantitative risk assessment (QRA) sponsored by partners in the Asphalt Roofing Environmental Council (AREC) has reignited discussions in the roofing industry about these potential risks from exposure to asphalt fumes during roofing jobs and has shed new light on how much risk is involved. 

For years there have been significant concerns about the health risks from asphalt fumes, especially when roofs are applied in hot conditions. This assessment, sponsored by the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA), the Asphalt Institute (AI) and Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association (ARMA), dives into the cancer risks for workers handling these materials. “The controversy surrounding the potential cancer-causing effects of asphalt fume exposures experienced during hot roofing work has existed for almost 35 years,” says Thomas Shanahan, CAE, author of “New Findings Are In.” 

This study expands on the risk assessment details and discusses the minimal risk of lung cancer from asphalt fume exposure. It suggests that asphalt is not a risk factor for workers because increased cancer rates could “be attributable to coal tar, asbestos, smoking or another factor,” according to Thomas. “For lung cancer (the cancer most commonly thought to be associated with asphalt fume exposure), the work-life risk ranges from two chances in 1 billion to eight chances in 1 million.” 

The study asserts the relative safety of different asphalt roofing materials. According to Thomas, “Asphalt roofing products can be safely used by workers, thus posing minimal risk to them and, by extension, to the general public.” It’s important to know that fume exposures can exceed the recommended levels, which is why proper training is of the utmost importance when it comes to working with hot asphalt to help minimize workers exposure to the fumes. This is something many companies, like United Asphalts, are aware of and take great care to ensure they fully train new employees on the safety and installation of hot asphalt. 

Even though certain risks are identified, they're much lower than numerous other job-related dangers or everyday activities. It is interesting to compare the risks of roofing to common everyday dangers. The document calls for ongoing research, better work practices and worker safety education, offering a more optimistic view for the roofing industry regarding the risks from asphalt fume exposure. 

Read the full study to learn more about the safety of asphalt fumes.

Learn more about United Asphalts in their Coffee Shop Directory or visit www.unitedasphalts.com.

About Jonny

Jonny Suchor is a writer for the Coffee Shops and AskARoofer™. When he's not working, he can be found in the mountains on a fly fishing or skiing adventure.



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