At one time, asbestos was in wide use everywhere in America. It is a natural mineral in a fibrous form and is highly resistant to heat, water, chemicals, and electricity. Asbestos was used in thousands of construction, commercial and household products.
Some of those products included:
- Fireproof coatings
- Concrete and cement
- Joint compound
- Pains and sealants
Asbestos also was used in electrical appliances, plastics, rubber, lawn furniture, and even hats and gloves. But working with asbestos in any way put millions of people at risk for asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Diseases Registry found that an estimated 27 million people were exposed to asbestos from 1940 to 1979.
There are some occupations where you are at higher risk to asbestos exposure than others:
Thousands of construction products contained asbestos before 1980. Demolition crews and home renovators are at higher risk of exposure. Roofing and flooring materials are still produced with asbestos. This puts even current workers at risk of asbestos exposure.
Fires cause severe damage to products that contain asbestos in older homes, which can cause deadly fibers to become airborne. Asbestos has been used for years to make protective clothing for firefighters, helmets, and boots. Many firefighters were exposed to asbestos when they were working on the 9/11 disaster site in NYC.
A 2006 study was released by Environmental Health Perspectives that followed some of the workers who worked at the WTC site in New York City after 9/11. About 70 percent of them had new or worsen respiratory issues. About 28% of the workers had lung function tests that were abnormal. Researchers are continuing to follow those who worked on the job site after 9/11.
Industrial workers include a variety, such as mechanics, trade laborers, chemical workers, and machinery operators. Brake mechanics were especially at risk to be exposed to asbestos as they worked with brake shoes and rotors coated with asbestos. Workers also were at risk when exposed to asbestos in paper, textiles, gaskets, fireproofing and insulation.
Janitor / Custodian
Plumber & Pipefitter
Power Plant Worker
Heat resistant products were the most frequent sources of asbestos exposure. Some of the most common were fireproofing sprays and pipe insulation. Also, cutting decades-old asbestos pipes is a major exposure threat to workers in power plants. A study has found that 33% of power plant workers had asbestos in their lungs. (CDC.gov).
Almost 30% of mesothelioma lawsuits are filed by military veterans and shipyard workers. Boiler workers had high exposure to asbestos. So did workers in construction, repair, and demolition of vessels. Juries have awarded shipyard workers high levels verdicts in lawsuits against companies that produced asbestos products.
Textile & Mill Workers
Every branch of the US armed forces used asbestos in many areas. People who worked on Navy ships, as well as the operators of military vehicles and aircraft into the 1970s, were at high risk. Thousands of veterans who work on the vessels below developed an asbestos-related illness decades after their service was complete:
- Aircraft carriers
- Auxiliary vessels
Other Occupations At High Risk of Exposure to Asbestos
Workers who operate in high-risk jobs tend to work with asbestos in high concentrations on a daily basis. For example, mineworkers have the highest potential for exposure to asbestos. Mining for asbestos in the United States ended almost 20 years ago. But many miners still are exposed because some minerals, including vermiculite and talc, have asbestos in them. Also, the equipment that miners use has asbestos and asbestos gaskets.
The most well-known incident happened in the vermiculite mine owned by W.R. Grace and Co in Libby MT. Hundreds of miners and their families perished from asbestosis and mesothelioma in Libby. The R.T. Vanderbilt mines for talc in New York is another well-known example, These mines had very high levels of tremolite asbestos that was combined with other minerals.
Other top industries and job sites for exposure to asbestos include:
- Ship and boat building
- Agricultural work
- Industrial and chemicals
- Electrical light and power
- Elementary and secondary schools
- Blast furnaces, steelworks, rolling and finishing mills
Risks from Asbestos Operations Nearby
It is not just the workers themselves in the above occupations who are at risk for asbestos exposure. People who live in nearby towns and communities also are at risk of exposure to asbestos.
A 2009 study that was published in the Atmospheric Pollution Research Journal tested the effects of asbestos exposure in a group of people who lived near a plant that produced asbestos-containing materials. The study looked at the rates of pleural mesothelioma and other conditions related to asbestos in an industrial city in Egypt that contained the Sigwart Company asbestos factory. (Sciencedirect.com).
The study compared disease rates in people working in the plant to those living near the plant, and to those in a control group with no known exposure to the mineral. In total, this study had more than 4,000 under observation.
Pleural mesothelioma was highest – nearly 3% – in the group with asbestos exposure in the environment. The group with exposure on the job had a lower rate of only .8%. As you would expect, the control group had a few cases of disease – only .1%.
These rates varied a good deal for other illnesses, such as diffuse pleural thickening. Overall, this study found a slightly higher rate of illnesses in asbestos workers than the residents who lived nearby.
Improper Removal of Asbestos
Cases of mesothelioma still occur today and will occur in the future because sometimes construction companies working on older buildings to either tear them down or renovate them are careless in removing asbestos-containing materials. It is important that property abatement operations are used to remove those dangerous materials. It also is important to stick to federal safety regulations to remove and dispose of asbestos-containing materials to reduce health risks.
Even though it is thought that asbestos is a problem of the past, there are still many job sites out there that still may contain asbestos. Workers who are employed in industries that may still have asbestos-containing materials around should use all of the protective equipment supplied by employers. It is essential to follow safety procedures and workplace practices. For example, approved respirators must be worn when you are working around asbestos fibers.
It also is important to take careful precautions against bringing asbestos home from work. Any shoes or clothing that was worn on the job must be left and cleaned at the site. Showers should always be taken before going home to avoid presenting any danger of second-hand exposure to family.
Safety equipment and proper safety practices will protect you and your loved ones from contracting any diseases related to asbestos exposure.
If you think that you or your loved one was exposed to asbestos at work, it is important to retain the services of a skilled mesothelioma attorney as soon as possible. He or she will interview you and determine when and where you think you were exposed, and what your current medical condition is. If it appears you could have a case, he will conduct extensive research about where and when you were exposed and will determine the next legal steps.
Get Mesothelioma Legal Help
With over $30 billion available for victims through the Asbestos Trust Funds, you could be entitled to financial compensations without ever filing a lawsuit? Mesothelioma & Lung Cancer victims qualify immediately. Complete the form or call us toll free (800) 352-0871
- Asbestos Exposure Study. (1998). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/pgms/worknotify/asbestos.html
- Asbestos Exposure Study. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1309104215304712