It used to be that asbestos contact was related to those working directly with the raw substance in the handling, mining, construction, or manufacturing of products. The inactive period between initial exposure and a subsequent infection or illness is between 10 to 40 years. Because the height of asbestos exposure occurred in the 1960s and 1970s, many of those infected by the material are only now being diagnosed with related illnesses. Since the implantation of worker safety regulations, the hazard of asbestos exposure now threatens those occupations related to renovation, repair, maintenance, or removal of old material containing asbestos. Our asbestos lawyers stress that individuals can be exposed at home as well, through activities such as gardening or car work, which may also trigger environmental asbestos.
Past Occupational Exposure: In the United States, an estimated 27 million workers were exposed to aerosolized asbestos fibers between 1940 and 1979.
- Auto mechanics
- Boiler makers
- Building inspectors
- Demolition workers
- Floor covering workers
- Furnace workers
- Hod carriers
- Iron workers
- Libby vermiculite exfoliation plant workers
- Maintenance workers
- Merchant marines
- Operating engineers
- Pipe fitters
- Refinery workers
- Sheet metal workers
- Shipyard workers
- Steam fitters
- Tile setters
- U.S. Navy personnel
Businesses where workers may be exposed to asbestos
- Asbestos product manufacturing (insulation, roofing, building materials)
- Automotive repair shops ( especially those that involve repair of brakes, clutches)
- Construction companies
- Maritime companies
- Mining companies
- Offshore rust removal businesses
- Oil refineries
- Power plants
- Manufacturers of sand or abrasives
- Shipbuilders, ship lines, and ship yards
- Steel manufacturers
- Tile cutters
Past Secondary Occupational Exposure: Secondary exposure occurs when people who do not work directly with asbestos are nevertheless exposed to fibers as a result of sharing workspace where others handled asbestos. For example, electricians who worked in shipyards were exposed because asbestos was being used to coat the ships’ pipes and hulls.
Past Para-Occupational Exposures: In the past, because of a lack of proper industrial hygiene, asbestos
workers went home covered in asbestos dust. The workers’ families
and other household contacts were then exposed via inhalation of asbestos
dust from workers’ skin, hair, and clothing, and during laundering
of contaminated work clothes.
A mortality study of 878 household contacts of asbestos workers revealed that 4 out of 115 total deaths were from pleural mesothelioma and that the rate of deaths from all types of cancer was doubled.
In addition, asbestos was released into the air and soil around facilities such as refineries, power plants, factories handling asbestos, shipyards, steel mills, vermiculite mines, and building demolitions. People living around these facilities were also exposed to asbestos.
Current Occupational Exposures: Currently, the people most heavily exposed to asbestos in the United
States are those in construction trades. This population includes an estimated
1.3 million construction workers as well as workers in building and equipment
maintenance. Because most asbestos was used in construction, and two-thirds
of asbestos produced is still used in this trade, risk to these workers
can be considerable if the hazard is not recognized and OSHA standards
are not enforced.
Direct Domestic Exposures: As noted previously, some home attic insulation and many other home and building materials produced before 1975 contain asbestos. People who live in homes with these materials are at risk of exposure if the materials are loose, crumbling, or disturbed by household activities or renovations. In such cases, the asbestos materials should be removed or encapsulated by a trained and certified asbestos contractor. For information on where to find certified asbestos contractors in your state, contact your local health department.
Our asbestos lawyers stress that there are many ways that people can be exposed, whether through occupational or recreational activities that entail contact with materials containing asbestos.Some examples are such activities as home renovation, auto repair, and urban spelunking. In places where naturally occurring asbestos is close to the earth’s surface, activities such as gardening and dirt biking can cause exposures if asbestos-bearing rock is disturbed.