Although the use of asbestos has largely been phased out in the U.S., many individuals who were exposed to asbestos in the past several decades are only now showing the symptoms of asbestos-related diseases.
A number of individuals contracted an asbestos-related disease through exposure from their work. However, occupational exposure was not limited to the workers themselves. Many others received secondhand exposure to asbestos through contact with someone who unknowingly brought asbestos fibers home on his or her clothing, hair or body.
Industries With Occupational Hazards
Most of those who were exposed to asbestos were exposed in an industrial environment. People who worked in the following industries or the following occupations may have been exposed to asbestos at some point in their career:
- Auto mechanics, where asbestos is used in brake linings and clutches
- Construction workers, where asbestos was incorporated into fireproofing and many building materials, including roof shingles, pipes, siding, ceiling and floor tiles, and joint compound
- Drywall installers, where the main exposure to asbestos was in the taping compounds that were used to cover and smooth the taping that covered the seams between sheets
- Electricians, where asbestos was commonly used as insulator in wiring and in high-voltage switchgear and motors; and electricians typically worked around joint compound and fireproofing
- Firefighters, who are exposed to an array of construction materials and compounds while fighting fires in older buildings, as well as wearing asbestos suits to prevent injury
- Insulators or any work around insulators who install or remove asbestos pipe covering, asbestos block insulation or asbestos cement
- Longshoremen and shipbuilders, where workers were exposed to massive levels of asbestos while unloading asbestos fiber and other asbestos containing cargo or while constructing and repairing vessels
- Mining operations, where asbestos was a contaminant
- Plumbers and pipefitters, including steamfitters, who worked with asbestos gaskets and packing and the insulation used on the pipes they were repairing
- Railroad workers, where asbestos was used in insulation, brake linings and in other areas
- Sheet metal workers, where asbestos was common in construction materials as well as protective gear
- Brickmasons and boilermakers, who were exposed to gaskets, rope, insulation and refractory mortars and cement used to insulate boilers and furnaces and associated piping
- Teachers who may be exposed to asbestos dust in the classroom from worn, damaged or disturbed building materials or from teaching art classes that utilize asbestos materials
Many of the workers who are at risk for asbestos exposure are union members. If you have an on–the–job issue involving asbestos exposure, we recommend that you contact your union representative for assistance.