Exposure to Asbestos

Many individuals think that asbestos has been completely banned from all countries. Unfortunately this is not the case. The use of asbestos is banned in the European Union, Australia and some other countries. Asbestos has also been widely used in the Soviet Union for many years. It is still widely used in many ex-Soviet Union countries without adequate precautions. There have been many regulations regarding the use of asbestos through the ages but it is not completely banned in the United States. Other countries, mostly those that mine asbestos, constantly fight against a ban on Asbestos. This is not surprising since for the mining countries asbestos is a source of revenue.

It is also important to note that people may be exposed to asbestos even if they do not work in an environment where asbestos is used. Asbestos is widely used in a large number of products and it is difficult for an individual not to be exposed in some degree to asbestos during his life. Moreover one is exposed to asbestos through many consumer products. Asbestos fibers are also released from natural deposits and from the deterioration of asbestos products. We can also be exposed to asbestos from the air and from drinking water. However such exposure rarely makes individuals to get ill with asbestos-related diseases. Consumer goods that use asbestos usually do not pose any risk to the health of the individual unless such products are damaged in such a way that asbestos fibers are released in the air. It is these asbestos fibers that when they are inhaled can pose the risks for individuals to develop asbestos-related diseases. It is individuals that constantly work in an environment where asbestos is used that have the real risk of becoming ill. Such individuals may develop mesothelioma or other type of asbestos related diseases many years later.

The risk of developing such serious problems as mesothelioma varies with the type of industry where the exposure occurred, with the extent of such exposure, the concentration of asbestos particles in the air and whether protective equipment is used or not. Unfortunately, in the past, many workers were not aware of the dangers posed by inhaling airborne asbestos fibers. Nowadays there are many regulations that oblige workers to wear safety equipment for their protection. However safety regulations may have been quite slack many years ago. Workers are mainly exposed to asbestos when products or equipment are installed or manufactured. Those individuals that mine asbestos have also a high degree of dangerous exposure to asbestos particles.

For several years asbestos has been used extensively in the shipbuilding industry. Shipbuilders used to work in poorly ventilated environments with little or no protection at all. As more and more have been learned about the health hazard of asbestos, regulations have been imposed to safeguard the health of the shipbuilders. However, the effects of such exposure is still felt today by many workers that worked in such an industry years earlier.

The inhalation of asbestos fibers was very common in the metal works industry. The production of certain products such as thermal insulation, pipes, gaskets, brakes and clutches resulted in environments where airborne asbestos fibers were the order of the day. Individuals that worked in steel yards and railroads were exposed to a large concentration of asbestos fibers.

Individuals that worked in power plants were also exposed to a dangerous level of airborne asbestos fibers since asbestos was widely used in the equipment and machinery of power plants such as boilers, turbines and generators.

Occupations where dangerous exposure to asbestos may occur include:

  • Aluminum plant workers
  • Asbestos abatement and removal workers
  • Auto mechanics
  • Boiler makers
  • Brake Mechanics
  • Bricklayers
  • Building Inspectors
  • Carpenters
  • Demolition workers
  • Drywallers
  • Electricians
  • Engineers
  • Floor Coverings
  • Furnace operators
  • Furnace Workers
  • Glazers
  • Grinders
  • Heat & Frost Insulators
  • Hod carriers
  • Industrial workers
  • Insulators
  • Iron workers
  • Laborers
  • Longshoremen
  • Maintenance workers
  • Merchant marines
  • Millwrights
  • Navy personnel
  • Operating Engineers
  • Operators
  • Painters
  • Pipefitters
  • Plasterers
  • Plumbers
  • Refinery workers
  • Refractory Bricklayer
  • Roofers
  • Sand blasters
  • Sheet metal workers
  • Ship Scrappers
  • Shipfitters
  • Shipyard workers
  • Spray insulator
  • Steam fitters
  • Steelworkers
  • Tile Workers
  • U.S. Navy veterans
  • Welders 

Industries and jobs sites where dangerous exposure to asbestos fibers may have occured include:

  • Asbestos mining
  • Asbestos milling
  • Asbestos product manufacturing - materials
  • Asbestos product manufacturing – building
  • Asbestos product manufacturing – insulation
  • Asbestos product manufacturing – roofing
  • Automotive repair (brakes & clutches)
  • Chemical plants
  • Construction sites
  • Foundries
  • Maritime
  • Miners
  • Navy ships
  • Oil refineries
  • Paper mills
  • Power plants
  • Railroads
  • Refineries
  • Shipbuilders
  • Ships
  • Shipyards
  • Steel mills
  • Tile cutters
  • Wool Industry

Exposure can also result to individuals who have members working in environments that are heavily exposed to asbestos. Asbestos fibers may be brought home by such members on their clothing, shoes, hair or skin.